23 March 2009

More On the Pornification of the Pulpit

by Phil Johnson



he message I gave at the Shepherds' conference three weeks ago on the pornification of evangelical pulpits continues to generate e-mail and questions. (The message was on Titus 2:7-8 and was titled "Sound Doctrine; Sound Words.") I don't particularly want a drawn-out discussion of that message to dominate our blog. So I answered three or four of the best questions about it HERE two weeks ago and hoped we could move on to other topics.

But a new wave of questions followed that post. In fact, the volume of feedback I am getting seems to be increasing. Positive replies still outnumber negative ones by a very large margin, but the negative ones are getting more and more aggressive. I commented two weeks ago that only a few people had challenged my position and most of them were gracious. I can't honestly characterize the negative e-mails in this second wave as "gracious."

But it seems those who disagree with my position are the most eager to keep me talking about it. My detractors are nothing if not persistent, so today I'm going to answer some of the best questions from that second wave of e-mails:

Are your ears so tender that you are truly injured by the sound of coarse words?

I wish I could say I'm so thoroughly "innocent in what is evil" (Romans 16:19) that I'm traumatized when I hear vile words, dirty jokes, or the casual patois of the porn industry. Sadly, before I became a Christian I was a master at telling smutty jokes. I come from a line of Oklahoma cattlemen. I think my great grandfathers and their sons were blissfully unaware that polite society considered any words or topics off limits. I first learned how to cuss fluently in grade school while fishing with my grandfather. Then I spent my summers from high school through college working on roofing crews, where profanity flows more freely than hot asphalt.

So my problem is not that I am naïve when it comes to filthiness, foolish talk, and crude joking. On the contrary, I have had far too much exposure to such things to be fooled by the claim that they can be harnessed and employed as tools for contextualizing the gospel.

Incidentally, my concern about such things is not that they are injurious, but that they are spiritually defiling. Words that inflict pain on those who hear may or may not be sinful. Talk that defiles the hearers is always wrong.

I have heard you use expressions like "damnable heresy" and "pompous ass." How is that different from the strong language you condemn?

1. I don't condemn "strong language" per se. On the contrary, I like robust, vivid language. What I deplore is profane, filthy, lewd, or irreverent talk.

2. Words such as damned and damnable are inappropriate when employed as casual curses, but such words are fitting and proper when we're speaking of literal damnation.

3. Can I justify calling someone a "pompous ass"? In most instances, probably not. But that's not because it's a profane expression. It is not. In that context (as well as all 90 times the word ass appears in the KJV), the term is a reference to a braying donkey.
    Nevertheless, it would be fairly easy to make the case that an expression like that cannot be applied to a fellow believer without violating Romans 12:10 (and probably the spirit of Matthew 5:22). Even using such a label to describe an egotistic unbeliever might violate Colossians 4:6—especially if it's used in an offhand or jeering way.
    Have I been guilty of that? To my shame, yes. A too-sharp tongue is one of my besetting sins. I made a comment about that two weeks ago, near the end of that 400-comment thread: "I'm certainly not proud of every parody I have ever invented or every wisecrack I have made. The sudden rise of profaneness in the pulpit over the past 3 years is one of the things that has driven me to rethink how freely we ought to indulge in hard-edged humor."

In your message at the shepherds conference you used the word defecating. Why is that any better than a shorter, more common word that means exactly the same thing?

Every culture has words that are considered taboo, or in biblical terms, "filthy." It's not merely their meaning that has caused them to be deemed inappropriate. I could give you a dozen or more synonyms for ordure that occupy varying levels of social acceptability, ranging from baby-talk expressions that are not really banned by our culture (but I wouldn't normally use them in the context of Bible teaching)—to words like guano, bear scat, manure, or feces. These would include several more or less clinical terms for specific kinds of excreta.

Contemporary culture is not really as vague as some like to pretend when it comes to the question of which words are "filthy" (like the words that decorate so many hard-core rap songs) and which words are merely vivid and repulsive (like the word diarrhea.)

Scripture expressly says the former is to be avoided; Scripture itself employs the latter, but only judiciously.

Who determines which words are "filthy" and which ones are merely clinical? Is there a list of forbidden words you can send me?

Culture determines this. It's quite true that the standard may be different from culture to culture and generation to generation. But both history and literature prove that it's not nearly as fluid or as nebulous as postmodern language-theorists suggest.

I listened to your anti-Driscoll message and read everything you wrote on your blog about it. You still haven't cited a single sermon where Mark Driscoll used cuss words.

1. If you had read everything on my blog about it, you would know that I have never once accused Mark Driscoll of using "cuss words." Furthermore, I have made that point multiple times—every time someone demands examples of Driscoll's "cussing."

2. If you had given my message a fair hearing, you could surely find a more fitting way of describing it. How about "your message on Titus 2:7-8?"



ne intriguing fact stands out in all the criticisms of that message: not a single critic has challenged my interpretation of Titus 2:7-8; Ephesians 4:29; 5:3-4; or the third commandment (Exodus 20:7). My detractors' disagreements fall into two categories: 1) some complain that I don't understand the importance of contextualization; and 2) some complain that I've exaggerated the problem.

If I could ask just one question of them, it would be this: What, precisely, do you think Ephesians 5:4 forbids?


Phil's signature

121 comments:

Bobby Grow said...

Phil,

Excellent post! I've "taken on" PoMo's, so to speak, although I wouldn't call them that (per se) . . . I would simply say that they are a certain "brand" of what has come to be known as "Christian Hipsters" (which I'm sure includes some 'naive' PoMos). Anyway, I've taken the same tact as you; on the "cultural" point of language (as far as usage and meaning), and tied that into the Ephesians passages . . . and yet still no go.

I reduced it so far, their logic that is, to write a post on why (given their logic) it's wrong to use Jesus Christ as an expletive --- since His name, culturally, has come to be used as a simple reference to expressing pain, excitement, or fear. But of course they would have none of that, "Jesus' name," defying all logic, falls into a sacrosanct 'off-limits' category (of course I agree that it does). But if they are going to be consistent with their logic about "language" and "semantics" then using Jesus Christ, per the "proper" context, shouldn't cause these folks anymore pause than using "fu@%".

Anyway good points, I agree with you!

Sir Brass said...

Ephesians 5:4 was the very text a friend of mine used that silenced my mouth on the issue of cussing (I was in the category of "it's just a word, it's meaning is nebulous by those who use it" of Po-Mo-ism). That was the VERY clear text that said, "Clean up your mouth!" to me. Thankfully, the filthy mouth is one of besetting sins that the Lord dealt with in me first (not saying I'm perfect, but if you'd heard me in casual conversation before that time and now you'd understand.....I used to be as fluent in cussing as Phil used to be).

I have NO tolerance for those who would allow filthy talk into the Pulpit. I'm right there with Phil here. Right on, brother!

Sheldon Clowdus said...

I agree 100% that the lewd, filthy place has no place in the pulpit or anywhere else for that matter. Not only per Ephesians but also 1 Corinthians 1:17, Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians 1:18 which all in one way or another tell us that the Gospel doesn't need our help to be made effective. All it needs is our obedience to proclaim it. It is the power of God unto salvation, not our feeble efforts to make it more relevant, palatable, or eloquent.

Pastor Phil said...

Phil,

I only heard some extracts of your message, as aired by Todd Friel on Wretched Radio, but I appreciated all that I heard, and I'm very grateful that you addressed the subject. Much needed.

Rick Frueh said...

When we have arrived at a place in Christianity in general, much less emanating from the voice of the pulpit, that we cannot agree that some language ranges from inappropriate all the way to repulsive, I must revisit my stand on the round earth theory.

Perhaps we've been wrong on that as well.

BTW - On the language thing? I would shamefully suggest an overwhelming pseudo-Arminian influence, however Mr. Driscoll has been kind enough to spread the manure into pseudo-Calvinistic pastures as well.

Tournifreak said...

I probably wrote more posts than anyone else last time this topic came up, so I feel I should contribute this time too. Not because I think this is some massive issue, not because I'm some sort of apologist for Driscoll (like he needs one!), but because I think Phil (and definitely some of his supporters) might have gone a bit far. And it's unusual for me to think that of something written by the delightful Pyros...

Phil, I think your exposition of Eph 5:4 was very good, and you did a far better job than I could. Right, enough grovelling.

I'm sure there are examples of church having gone too far. 40 days of sex or whatever is was is just crass and headline grabbing. I daren't even look up XXX-church at work , and I suspect my filtering software would block it at home. Clearly there are words that are taboo for good reason, and I'm in no way defending their use from the pulpit, or anywhere. But I want to focus on Driscoll again, because you did first.

I think it is important to cite examples and this is why: You did make several references to Driscoll in your message, and even if you didn't directly accuse him, there was certainly lots of guilt piled on by association. Without firm examples, what do people assume he's said? I can imagine there are those of your supporters who have in their minds this foul-mouthed apologist for carnality and think, "There's no way he'd be allowed in MY church!" When in fact, no-one has come up with anything (except *that* ill-advised joke). I'd refer people to his entire "Peasant Princess" series on Song of Solomon. If there was ever an opportunity for lewd talk and filthy language, this would be it, surely. And yet he deals with sensitive subjects sometimes subtly and gently, sometimes in a firm and direct way, always with a bit of humour, and always Biblically.

I have recommended this series to several teens and 20's in my church and all have come back and said how helpful it has been. They say he deals with issues around marriage, singleness and sexuality better than anything they're heard before. No-one else is brave enough to deal with these subjects, they say. And in our pornified culture, don't we need men who are brave enough to deal with them Biblically? And I do mean brave. Telling a few smutty jokes isn't brave. Doing solid Biblical exposition on sensitive subjects is.

Now, personally, I don't think I'd want to do that series on our sunday evening service. But our demographic is very different to his, and I wouldn't want to judge another pastor on how he deals pastorally with his church. But the content I would say is excellent. (in the sense of Phil 4:8)

So I two questions in return:
1) How do you deal with issues of porn, sexuality, marriage, singleness in church? (1 to 1 was suggested before - no way - half our congregation need to hear this stuff - that's why we have preaching, right?)

2) How do you preach through SoS without discussing some of the more intimate issues that it addresses? Do you just avoid those bits? Or say they're actually symbolic and typical? Or generalise in such a way that no-one actually understands what Solomon meant? (I'm sure we've all heard these 3 approaches used) How can you be faithful to the principle that "all scripture is God-breathed and useful..."?

Johnny Dialectic said...

That the negative emails should increase and grow "more agressive" over this issue seems to be a sign of something a lot more serious going on, and I'm talking about the spiritual decline of the church (as discussed in other posts re: Spencer, etc.) This is what so many pomo-emergent-neo evanelicals are exercised about? Why THIS?

I believe we are called to exercise our faith toward greater holiness. As that happens, our sins become clearer to us. Our grief over them increases. Our sensitivity toward how we act and what we say should also increase. Many permutations of this could be discussed (e.g., the weaker brother). What this aggressivness over questionable language suggests about the spiritual health of the church is not positive.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Tournifreak, if one has been brought up with notions of taste, tact, judgment and clarity of thought and speech, it is no problem at all to preach on anything you've mentioned in a way that is pleasing to God.

Unfortunately, those values have been systematically hacked out of our culture.

David Mohler said...

Culture determines this.

Exactly. SO how can any preacher not see this as "conforming to the world"?

The preacher's job is not to accommodate culture's baser inclinations, thus turning the pulpit into some kind of bobber which floats up and down with culture.

At some point, Christians must be elevated to a hatred of the garment spoiled by the flesh.

Frank Turk said...

You know: this discussion bothers me more than it bothers most people because I know what my native response is to this sort of “yeah, but” filibustering and endless complaints of fairness/unfairness. However, Phil and I have had an extended discussion of the Greek translation of the word I would use for these complaints, so I will take the high road and avoid any confusion about what I’m trying to say because I said it in an overly-contextualized way.

| So I [post] two questions in return:

Honestly – what didn’t Phil say already that needs to be said? It seems to me that for people who claim to have a broad grasp of contextualization and the ability to read or hear the unwritten/unspoken foundations of a culture or some random person, grasping Phil’s frankly unadorned plenary talk is apparently out of their reach.

It’s almost as darkly funny as the events on the same day in a restroom at GCC where someone scrawled profanity and Phil’s name on a bathroom wall as a rebuttal. Almost, but not quite.

| 1) How do you deal with issues of
| porn, sexuality, marriage, singleness
| in church? (1 to 1 was suggested
| before - no way - half our
| congregation need to hear this stuff -
| that's why we have preaching, right?)

I think the irony of this question is that most of the NT spends its time doing this without using vulgar epithets, crude formulations, and dirty jokes. You have read the NT, right? Because the brief answer it gives is “don’t have sex outside of marriage, and don’t defile the marriage bed”, and the long-form proceeds from that as “but rather do this” without cataloging either private marital acts or making dirty jokes of Scripture.

And here’s the thing: consider for a second the high water mark on Paul’s preaching on the matter of relational ethics in the NT -- Eph 5. Isn’t Paul’s exposition on Christ loving the church and giving himself up for her a far more powerful and far more rich exposition on what the underlying motivations for the thesis “submit one to another” than a list of tawdry jokes and a laundry list of “vernacular” euphemisms for things one should or should not do?

Yes: preach on what the Bible teaches us. But perhaps you as a preacher should learn something about how it preaches to us if you are going to attempt to plunge those depths.

| 2) How do you preach through SoS
| without discussing some of the more
| intimate issues that it addresses? Do
| you just avoid those bits? Or say
| they're actually symbolic and typical?
| Or generalise in such a way that no-
| one actually understands what
| Solomon meant? (I'm sure we've all
| heard these 3 approaches used) How
| can you be faithful to the principle
| that "all scripture is God-breathed
| and useful..."?

How often, do you think, will you have to preach through SoS? See – I think that it would be important to preach through SoS once or twice in a lifetime as the Bible is a vast collection of literature. So at best, the question here has only limited value because let’s face it: no one should preach through a part of Scripture which they either do not understand or do not know how to handle.

But that said, when you preach through it, tell me: why is that book in the Bible? It is the Christian Karma Sutra – is that what God intended for that book? Is that all you can get out of it? If it is, I think what you personally have done is reduced the OT in a way which even the worst examples of the kinds of people and preachers you would decry have a far better grasp of the text than you do.

Doesn’t it turn out that the Song of Songs is historically contexted in the Bible as the one joyous moment between God and Israel – the moment when God’s king is on the throne, the temple is built and is used for what God intended it to be used for, and the whole world is coming to Israel to hear the wisdom of God through Solomon? Isn’t Solomon’s reign the brief shining moment when God’s covenant is fulfilled and Israel can enjoy being His people?

So this book isn’t really about sex at all, is it? It’s about how joyous this moment is for God and His people. My suggestion to you is that you study your Bible harder. I know that sounds like a condescending rebuff from an arrogant adult to a child, but when you ask questions like these, it’s hard to take you seriously as anything but a child who is asking “yeah but” questions when all he’s trying to do is find inventive ways to disobey.

Terry T said...

Phil,
You are absolutely right on regarding this topic.
I have never seen anywhere or any situation where filthy or profane language can promote the gospel. I am a 25 year member of the US Army and you can imagine the language in my day to day culture. I have never seen the type of language which is (sadly) common place among my peers further the gospel. Sadly, there have been moments in those 25 years where I was caught up in the emotion of the moment and let slip a few of those words - you know, when that happened instead of "contextualizing" the gospel it set me back to square 1 and I had to start over again. No one popped up and said, "Oh now I know what he was trying to tell me about grace now!" The closest thing that came about to increasing a hearing was when I approached those who heard me and apologized and asked for forgiveness for using words that were wrong.
These poor misguided "contextualizers" probably would not understand even folks who routinely use foul, filthy, gutter language are shocked and offended when one who names the name of Christ adopts their habits.

willohroots said...

I have seen much damage done by the crowd that has no words to express what they stepped in in the yard.

How many of the pillars of the church would edit the Bible if they could, bad Paul, he said "Dung", you just don't need all that sex in song of Songs, lets cut out bathing on the roof.
The constant criticism of all who do not fit into our mold is against the kingdom's growth. Let those involved in a culture do "as it seems best to the Holy Spirit and to them".
"Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience."
Vain words are easy, reaching people with Jesus is not.

DJP said...

You could say that, willohroots.

Or, alternatively, you could actually listen to Phil's very clear, well-organized, articulate talk on the subject; and you could read the discussion that's already taken place; and then you could say something, you know, contextually relevant to this blog.

You could do that. By contrast.

eastendjim said...

"But it seems those who disagree with my position are the most eager to keep me talking about it."

It appears Phil has tweaked some consciences. I have found in my own life that sin issues are only as complicated as I need to make them to maintain my presents sinful behaviour.

Stuart B said...

I'll bite. And I come at this as a so-called "lay person", since I know neither Greek nor Hebrew.

Your exegesis is wrong. In order...

Titus 2 does not in any way refer to such things as "course language." Show integrity and sound speech. The opponent here does not refer to someone in the church but outside the church, and it means church as in universal. Otherwise, why would any Christian be an opponent of someone preaching the gospel?

Eph 4:29. Define corrupting talk. Despite the dancing around the name of MD, there has been no evidence of corrupting talk, as everything spoken has been "only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." A sermon about sex will include sex talk.

Eph 5. Is this church meeting conduct or daily life conduct? Paul says let there not be even a hint of sexual immorality. Sex talk between husband and wife doesn't fall under that; neither does one couple giving advice to another. Or a pastor telling his flock to "wait for marriage." Implied sexual talk.

What do I think Eph 5:4 means? It means that these are serious topics that should not be discussed lightly or flippantly amongst individuals, but as always under the wisdom of God. If MD did something wrong it would be using culture expressions to make quick and easy jokes. But there was no wrong in discussing these issues from the pulpit.

Eph 5:4 is important, yes...but so is Eph 5:11-14.

However, since the Bible cannot possibly mean what it says, as a prominent seminary dean once told me, feel free to discard what I wrote. Frankly, I find that bogus, but whatever.

My 2 cents. Thanks for this blog and Pyromaniacs, I do appreciate reading it.

Tournifreak said...

"I think the irony of this question is that most of the NT spends its time doing this without using vulgar epithets, crude formulations, and dirty jokes."

I don't remember suggesting any of the above to be a good idea...

"...Because the brief [NT] answer it gives is “don’t have sex outside of marriage, and don’t defile the marriage bed”, and the long-form proceeds from that as “but rather do this” without cataloging either private marital acts or making dirty jokes of Scripture."

Yeah-but (there, I said it). What does that mean? There are lots of people who have genuine questions over this: what does defile the marriage bed? SoS provides some of the answers and that's why it's a particularly good book to study in these days. It reveals the beauty and delightful intimacy of marital sexuality. And that is something that is hugely lacking in our (my) culture.

How often would you preach through SoS? Not often, but more than you would have done 30 years ago, because it is stunningly counter-cultural and wonderfully helpful.

Is it a kind of Christian Karma Stura? Obviously not. But it surely does share elements of that, in the sense that it delights in expressions of human sexuality. You call that a reduction? I call that wonderful.

You seem to be falling into the trap that many others have done of allegorising SoS so that it doesn't actually say what it actually says, but says something quite different about Christ/Church. I don't see any NT evidence of SoS being about anything other than human love and sexuality. So many down the years have followed Origen's example of allegorising all the racy bits. And the result? The outside world sees us Christians as prudish and condemnatory. Some Christian marriages are cold and passionless partly because the wisdom of Solomon has not been preached on or worked through. Incidentally, Origen, who started this trend, famously castrated himself in an attempt to reduce his own carnal lusts. A guy who understood these issues? I don't think so.

David Rudd said...

Phil, good post. Three thoughts to throw at you.

1) I agree. I think there are lines which ought not be crossed when one sets out to "preach".

2) This statement:
"I'm certainly not proud of every parody I have ever invented or every wisecrack I have made. The sudden rise of profaneness in the pulpit over the past 3 years is one of the things that has driven me to rethink how freely we ought to indulge in hard-edged humor." gives this post significant credibility. I say this as one who has often "called you out" for your "hard-edged humor"

3) how is your beagle so much skinnier than mine? do you not let it eat whenever it barks?

James Hogan said...

Maybe it's because I'm not married, but I guess I just don't understand why SoS is a book that must be preached(in explicit detail) in the pulpit. I've read SoS recently and it's a remarkable bit of love poetry extolling and delighting in the love a man and woman can have for each other. As a part of God's most holy Word, should it be understood and taught through? Absolutely. But in the pulpit to a mixed audience? I would have to say no to this, and yes, I am aware that Driscoll did this. And no, I have not listened to his series, though I think I will give it a listen. But why do I think SoS should not be preached in the pulpit to a mixed audience? Maybe because I feel there are FAR MORE important topics(such as all the NT) to be preached. As many have pointed out, Paul's teaching on purity is concise and convicting.

Tourni, I appreciate your honest desire to know how we should approach this - maybe I am being naive, but I really don't feel that a detailed exposistion of SoS is that important. And again, I'm a single guy...I suppose when I'm married I may find my mind changing on this matter!!

To sum up my rambling thoughts, I think we should all be aware that a man and woman's love for each other in the context of marriage is amazing and awesome and a gift from God. For many of the details of this love(including the physical aspects!) we should be going to older godly men and women in smaller settings.

Phil Johnson said...

Stuart B: "I'll bite. And I come at this as a so-called "lay person", since I know neither Greek nor Hebrew. Your exegesis is wrong."

You also seem to be coming at it as someone who hasn't yet listened to the message you are critiquing. I didn't suggest that "Titus 2 . . . in any way refer[s] to . . 'course language.'"

. . . or "coarse language," for that matter. (I did point out, however, that the expression "sound speech" has a clear meaning in this context that has to do with dignity and reverence, and those ideas in turn cannot be fully appreciated without considering them in light of everything else Scripture says about bridling the tongue and not taking the Lord's name in vain.)

I also did not suggest that the "adversary" mentioned in that text is a fellow believer.

I did cite evidence and examples of corrupting talk, both from the source you mentioned and several others. I didn't cite many examples, and I deliberately avoided the worst ones. But that has nothing to do with "exegesis," does it? It's yet another complaint that falls into my category "2)" above.

Finally, I did indeed make the point that the command in Ephesians 5:4 covers all our discourse (not just church-meeting protocol) and even Titus 2:7-8, while speaking of Titus's duty as a pastor, covers more than merely his behavior in the pulpit.

Bottom line: your exegesis of my exegesis could be greatly improved if you actually knew what I said.

Tournifreak said...

Thank you for your generous tone. I wish others were as gracious.

I *do* have an honest desire to know how we approach these issues. I'm training for ministry right now (just started) and I do want to learn what older and wiser people think. I'm glad that has come across to you at least.

As I look around the evangelical scene, there are very few reformed people that I see who are talking about sexuality. Yet outside of reformed circles, it's everywhere. Is there too much? Yes, probably. Are some of the approaches taken unhelpful? Yes, certainly. Is some of it crass and lewd? Yes, although some of the pot-shots taken at MD seem to be from those who haven't actually heard him. But why is everyone talking about it? Is it not because our culture is so messed up in this area, it needs reformation in a big way? Isn't it because there are very many new Christians who have grown up in a free-sex society that are confused and hurt and want Biblical answers?

Just telling people “don’t have sex outside of marriage, and don’t defile the marriage bed” (as Frank said) just strikes me as inadequate in depth or breadth. Sure it's a start, but the Bible has so much to say on the subject and I just don't see how suppressing that is helpful. How you go about doing that is the question. Listen (or preferably watch) MD's series (or at least the 1st one) and report back. I'd be interested to know what you think.
www.peasantprincess.com

As you say, I'm not sure the sunday service is the right place either. But I reckon it could be, given the right context. eg. Mars Hill published a brochure in advance with a brief outline of each SoS message, explaining which in particular would be inappropriate for children. I'm not going to condemn MD - he knows his church far better than me. I'm sure he considered any pastoral implications before going ahead with the series.

C W said...

About 9 or 10 years ago I started a new job. After only being there for a couple of weeks a guy I hardly knew pointed at me and said to another guy, "See that guy there, he goes to church every Sunday. Do you know how I know? Because he doesn't say any bad words."

This was a work place where profanity was very fluently spoken. I was definitely seen as an alien there but I know that I wouldn't have had many of the gospel opportunities if I would have talked just like everyone else.

If that guy had heard what was being said from some pulpits today he may not have made that accusation. He probably would have thought I was weird but wouldn't have known why.

Frank Turk said...

| "I think the irony of this question
| is that most of the NT spends its
| time doing this without using
| vulgar epithets, crude
| formulations, and dirty jokes."
|
| I don't remember suggesting any
| of the above to be a good idea...

No? So which part of Phil’s talk are you objecting to, then? Particularly, let me ask this as specifically as possible so you don’t misunderstand me:

Phil cited a filthy joke Mark Driscoll has made –repeatedly- over the last 3 months based on a passage in Ecclesiastes, and has had the good taste to avoid pointing out the scatological jokes Driscoll made last year in talking about the humanity of Jesus.

Do you endorse this behavior? If not, what exactly are you objecting to in Phil’s talk on this subject?

| "...Because the brief [NT] answer
| it gives is “don’t have sex outside
| of marriage, and don’t defile the
| marriage bed”, and the long-form
| proceeds from that as “but rather
| do this” without cataloging either
| private marital acts or making
| dirty jokes of Scripture."
|
| Yeah-but (there, I said it). What
| does that mean? There are lots of
| people who have genuine
| questions over this: what does
| defile the marriage bed?

I love that – you really don’t know? Let me explain something to you, and let’s see if it makes any difference in your claims of ignorance or the claims of ignorance of those you are protecting or allegedly pastoring.

At the beginning of Madden ’06 football on PS2, right after the boot sequence, a scantily-clad cheerleader does a little cheer-thing and gives a “go team!” My youngest child – who I would bet has seen probably a third fewer summers than you have – will not let that scene play through. The child knows enough that this scene is suggestive and unwelcome in our home – and I have never once had to hold class for this child who isn’t old enough to cross the street without a grown-up to explain how that 10-second clip is, frankly, vulgar.

I have never had to introduce porn slang, or lecture on chastity, or do a frame-by-frame color commentary on this short video for my children – yet they know what happens there is at best a violation of modesty and chastity.

You’re saying that people who are reading the NT and come across Heb 13:4 don’t know what the writer of Hebrews is saying? That’s completely disingenuous. I know the worst of the worst, morally, dude, and they know what that phrase means – they know what adultery and sexual immorality is. They just don’t want to live without adultery and sexual immorality. Nobody has to explain to them what it means to violate the promises one makes when one gets married.

It’s too bad that you are willing to here admit that someone has to explain it to you. It makes the rest of your arguments frankly and darkly amusing.

| SoS provides some of the answers and
| that's why it's a particularly good
| book to study in these days. It
| reveals the beauty and delightful
| intimacy of marital sexuality. And
| that is something that is hugely
| lacking in our (my) culture.

So it is actually a how-to manual then? That’s how you’d preach that book? I’d be afraid to hear you preach on David’s adultery with Bathsheba then – God only knows what you would say, and I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t want you to say it.

| How often would you preach
| through SoS? Not often, but more
| than you would have done 30
| years ago, because it is stunningly
| counter-cultural and wonderfully
| helpful.

This is the problem: I have no doubt that between 1920 and 1990 there were probably not a dozen sermons preached in the English-speaking world by orthodox Protestants on the Song of Songs. If you could find more than that, I’d be shocked.

But that doesn’t give us license today to preach on it as if it was a how-to manual for married sex. And the reason is not that it doesn’t speak to married sex: the reason is that the sex is not the point of the book!

Should SoS be preached? Yes indeed. Should it be milked for its prurient value? You seem to say “yes”, and I think you’re haven’t thought that answer through very seriously or deeply.

| Is it a kind of Christian Karma
| Stura? Obviously not. But it surely
| does share elements of that, in
| the sense that it delights in
| expressions of human sexuality.
| You call that a reduction? I call
| that wonderful.

It’s strange how you can understand that the intimate bond between husband and wife is “wonderful”, but that you can’t see that there is a contrast between “intimate” and “public” which is necessary for intimacy to be wonderful.

Moreover, you plainly cannot see the purpose of the SoS as it relates to the Bible. You are willing to do far worse to it than snatch it out of context and make it an AWANA-pot-pie of scripture memory verses. You want to deconstruct the poetic nature of the book and the central theme from which almost all the prophets draw to condemn Israel and make it a sex manual – unpacking the allegorical language as technique rather than symbol.

My suggestion is that you think harder about what you are doing and to whom you are doing it. At some point, you have to ask what the definition of blasphemy is, and whether you care if you’re practicing it in the name of appealing to the appetites of men.

| You seem to be falling into the
| trap that many others have done
| of allegorising SoS so that it
| doesn't actually say what it
| actually says, but says something
| quite different about
| Christ/Church. I don't see any NT
| evidence of SoS being about
| anything other than human love
| and sexuality.

What this reveals from you is, frankly, a stupendous ignorance of the prophetic context of the balance of the Jewish Bible.

Let’s assume something for a moment: let’s assume that the best description of SoS is “a love poem written about one particular wedding ceremony, including the consummation of the marriage on the wedding night”. That makes SoS a stand-alone book in the OT – because it refers to nobody in particular, and does not represent any event in the covenant history of Israel. All it does, in your view, is tell us “how to”.

Doesn’t that sound to you at all like an improbable place to start, given that the whole OT is established by God so that Christ can fulfill it?

Rather, it seems obvious that the language established in SoS is the central metaphor of God’s complaint against Israel after the reign of Solomon and the fall of Israel from covenant faithfulness.

Your explanation doesn’t see that at all – it doesn’t have a basis for seeing this book as part of the canon in any way that looks like God was trying to say something in the OT scripture in particular. But why would God want to do that, after all, when writing a brief how-to manual on the wedding night is so much more useful and relevant?

| So many down the
| years have followed Origen's
| example of allegorising all the
| racy bits. And the result? The
| outside world sees us Christians as
| prudish and condemnatory. Some
| Christian marriages are cold and
| passionless partly because the
| wisdom of Solomon has not been
| preached on or worked through.

So what is the alternative, really? To unpack all the sex in SoS and make our Christian marriages more like Tommy and Pam’s marriage? That sounds like what the rest of the Bible says about married love, doesn’t it? No?

Or is it really true then that the only choices are “cold fish” marriage and “Sex in the City” marriage? It sounds to me like what you’re looking for is adolescent wish fulfillment rather than the fulfillment the Creator has ordained for all things, and marriage as a model of that until Christ returns.

But of course, you have to read SoS a little more “allegorically” to see Christ in that part of the OT. I am sure it makes me personally a cold fish.

| Incidentally, Origen, who started
| this trend, famously castrated
| himself in an attempt to reduce
| his own carnal lusts. A guy who
| understood these issues? I don't
| think so.

That’s classic: now Phil and I are on the side of those who would castrate themselves because we don’t think you should present your less-honorable parts in public. If those are the only choices, you must be right.

Frank Turk said...

One other thing.

You just posted this:

Just telling people “don’t have sex outside of marriage, and don’t defile the marriage bed” (as Frank said) just strikes me as inadequate in depth or breadth.

That summary is indicative of what is wrong with your ability to offer a criticism in this thread on this subject.

here's what I actually said:

Because the brief answer it gives is “don’t have sex outside of marriage, and don’t defile the marriage bed”, and the long-form proceeds from that as “but rather do this” without cataloging either private marital acts or making dirty jokes of Scripture.

And here’s the thing: consider for a second the high water mark on Paul’s preaching on the matter of relational ethics in the NT -- Eph 5. Isn’t Paul’s exposition on Christ loving the church and giving himself up for her a far more powerful and far more rich exposition on what the underlying motivations for the thesis “submit one to another” than a list of tawdry jokes and a laundry list of “vernacular” euphemisms for things one should or should not do?


Your ability to hear what is being said to you is pretty serevely limited by your own bias toward "contextualization". My opinion is that if you do not understand these attributes of what the Bible actually says, you should stay away from something like SoS which requires more of you than these other passages which are far more useful and clear regarding marital relationships.

Shinar Squirrel said...

Ok, I'm home with a cold, and cold meds make my brain fuzzy, so I'll be quick.

Phil's right - Every little kid on the playground could give you a list of what the "dirty words" are in our culture. (But don't ask them for that list, we don't want them to use those words, even to educate you!) These words should not be used by Christians under just about every circumstance. The pulpit is a place where God's Word should be taught with dignity You know, O Man, what is right!

Frank's right - Trying to boil the Song of Songs down to a sex manual is to miss the whole point. We ought to teach Biblical sexual morality, and that includes morality in thought and attitude, as well as in action. (Matthew 5:28)

The Squirrel

Sir Brass said...

To inject some lightheartedness into this otherwise very serious and very necessary meta-conversation:

Phil,

I would like to go slightly off topic and on record here and say that that puppy dog picture is absolutely adorable! :)

Also, I'd recommend you rinse some of your critics' mouths out with soap, but I think Pecadillo used all of the soap to clean the dishes =p.

Solameanie said...

I continue to find it curious that some want to defend the use of nasty words with such zeal. "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. . . ."

If only we would defend orthodoxy so zealously . . .

Denis said...

Frank,

I'd like to take exception to your statement that rejecting the allegorical interpretation of the Song of Solomon is tantamount to "stupendous ignorance."

I referred to the ESV Study Bible's introduction to the Song of Solomon and found the following:

The Song of Solomon, or Song of Songs (1:1), contains beautiful and sensuous poetry expressing romantic love between a young man (a shepherd, 1:7) and a young woman (a shepherdess, 1:8) in ancient Israel. On this point there is general agreement; but agreement ends once the discussion moves to how the Song of Solomon works to convey its theme. The Song of Solomon has in fact been subject to a broader range of interpretation probably than any other book in the Bible... Given this wide range of interpretative diversity, it has seemed best in these notes to focus mainly on a single cohesive interpretation of the Song of Solomon, while at the same time acknowledging that other interpretations are also commonly held among Bible-believing Christian interpreters (see Alternative Interpretations).

While the allegorical interpretation you refer to is listed in that "Alternative Interpretations" section, the notes do not champion that position. The following are the key themes the ESVSB identifies (the complete list):

1. God's covenant, which commands sexual purity, provides just the right framework (marriage) within which his people may properly enjoy the gift of sexual intimacy (cf. Gen. 2:23–24). Thus God's people honor him and commend him to the world when they demonstrate with their lives that obedience in such matters brings genuine delight.

2. Marriage is a gift of God, and is to be founded on loyalty and commitment (see Gen. 2:24, “hold fast”), which allows delight to flourish. As such, it is a fitting image for God's relationship with his people, in both the OT and the NT.


That said, I do not submit this to say you are wrong about the interpretation to which you are advocating. Rather, I simply find your handling of Tournifreak's comments is unduly harsh and, itself, seemingly ignorant.

Frank Turk said...

Denis --

I am fully-aware of the ESVSB intro to the Song of Songs, and I disagree with it (obviously) -- and the only reasons I would not label that intro as "stupendously ignorant" are two-fold:

[1] It is plain to offer the interpretation which has been the one offered by churchmen fo nearly 2000 years as the historical alternative. That is: it recognizes that its intro is not the one that would have been published 200 years ago, and it attempts to explain why. That doesn't make it right, but it does offer some academic humility which is not present in the advocate(s) in this thread. Demonstrating one's self awareness in the history of interpretation is a huge mitigating factor against the charge of "ignornace".

[2] That intro has to be connected in some way to the "poetry and wisdom literature" intro of the ESVSB. I think the broader intro to poetry in the OT in the ESVSB mitigates some of the shortcomings of the SoS intro.

I stand by the charge of "stupendously ignorant" toward Tournifreak as his "questions" and the underlying "arguments" have no way to support themselves except that they want to make scripture accessible by making it sexy and raunchy. That's the kind of harsh language the Bible does actually endorse and practice, and the students of Mark Driscoll (especially his talk at the last DG national conference) will recognize why this language is useful and implemented.

Bob said...

Thanks for another informative post, Phil. I get to read Pyro during my lunch break, and it's not possible to take in a 400 post response. I know you want to end this at some point, but may I ask you to consider a future post to summarize the response you receive to your final question about precisely what is forbidden in Eph 5.4? Thanks.

stratagem said...

Phil,

Subset 1: People who have been believers for any substantial length of time at all.

Subset 2: People who needed to hear the teaching that you just gave here on this blog.

To the extent there is any overlap between the two subsets above, modern-day evangelicalism has an enormous problem, doesn't it?

Oy vey!

stratagem said...

Now I want to hear Phil say, "if the ESV Study Bible supposes that, then the ESV Study Bible is a donkey, a moron."







(Yes my pardody of Dickens is intended as a good-natured joke, not a slap at anyone).

Chad V. said...

Phil

Have you ever considered addressing the cult of personality that is prevalent in the church today and how dangerous it is? The defense of the pornification of the pulpit and cult of personality seem to me to be related.

Sharon said...

My pastor expressed a profound truth yesterday. He explained that a pastor should imitate/reflect the Lord Jesus Christ, and not imitate/reflect his congregation. 'nough said!

A Musician by Grace

Tournifreak said...

"No? So which part of Phil’s talk are you objecting to, then? Phil cited a filthy joke Mark Driscoll has made –repeatedly- over the last 3 months based on a passage in Ecclesiastes, and has had the good taste to avoid pointing out the scatological jokes Driscoll made last year in talking about the humanity of Jesus. Do you endorse this behaviour? If not, what exactly are you objecting to in Phil’s talk on this subject?"

Come on Frank - have you not read what I said? I have repeatedly condemned MD's use of *that* joke. I haven't heard MD's talks on the humanity of Jesus so I can't really comment on them. Apart from *that joke* I havent come across anything in his recent Peasant Princess series that I found objectionable, or that I feel fell short of Titus 2. I'm trying to broaden the subject beyond, "don't do this..." to "do this instead..." While I agreed with Phil's message, I think it raised legitimate questions about what the better way is, especially when it comes to issues of sexuality.

Beyond that Frank, the tone of your comments seem more personal abuse than anything designed to build up or teach. Not once have I criticised Phil's message and (to the best of my ability and knowledge) I have been gracious throughout. Yet instead of gentle correction, you question my Biblical knowledge, intelligence, calling and pretty much accuse me of blasphemy. Are people actually allowed to ask questions on here? Or is anyone with less knowledge than you just ridiculed into submission?

Have I thought it all through? No. If I had written a treatise on the subject then you could quite legitimately burn it down. All I have done is ask questions - I'm trying to work it though. And frankly, Frank, although I appreciate your insight, I don't appreciate your tone. I'm sure much of what you wrote is correct, and I appreciate your time in replying. But the way you wrote it just makes me want to rebel against it. Perhaps you're just being American and I'm just being British???

That said...
"This is the problem: I have no doubt that between 1920 and 1990 there were probably not a dozen sermons preached in the English-speaking world by orthodox Protestants on the Song of Songs...But that doesn’t give us license today to preach on it as if it was a how-to manual for married sex."
By your own admission, the church has (until recently) largely ignored Biblical teaching on sexuality from the book of the Bible that most directly addresses it. In the age we live in (more $ spent on porn than all professional sport in the USA, apparently), how can that be a good thing?

Of course I don't think SoS "should be milked for it's prurient value". But how would you preach on SoS 2:3? Obviously you wouldn't spend a whole sermon on it but I'm genuinely interested in how you handle it. Label it as prurient and skip over it? Allegorise it? (Matthew Henry sees it as an image of the church resting in the shadow of the Almighty) Explain what Solomon was getting at and use it as an opportunity to explain that actually God invented sex and thinks it's a good thing (in marriage)?

I think the discussion over intimate and public is an interesting one. I don't see how discussing intimate themes in a public way, as the Bible does, detracts from actually being intimate. Surely having a Biblical grasp of intimacy will make the practice of that intimacy all the more wonderful?

About the context of SoS:
Some have identified the Shulamite woman as Abishag. I thought everyone thought the central character is Solomon? That places the book in a context. I didn't say it just tells us "how to". It's much wider than that. Perhaps you should listen to the MD series too?

I just saw that Dennis has made my point for me about the merits of the allegorical interpretation of SoS. Don't you acknowledge there is *any* danger with over-allegorising it to the point of ignoring the obvious plain meaning? (Which is what most commentators have done over the centuries.)

Russ said...

Contextualizing, porn and anti-porn smoke screens, how lovely, the better to deceive ourselves with our own self-righteousness!
I sometimes wonder if it wouldn't be better to change the name to Cryromaniacs (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=cryo-), as usual both sides, accuser and "accusee" (if that's a word) being equally guilty, as Jeremiah 17:9-10 and Romans 2:1-6 make clear, nothing new under the sun, Ecclesiastes 1:9. If there's a genuine interest versus pious but ultimately self-serving mouthing on the part of Phil or Mark to actually put into practice and obey what our great and awesome God demands concerning the love of the brethren in Christian discipline or fellowship, I've not seen it (not that I've either bothered to read much or seen any evidence it would be profitable as the same misrepresentations appear in the statements, regardless of the usual thoughtless internecine comments common for blogs), just the usual odious posturing of religious hypocrisy on both sides that characterizes most and perhaps all of us today (note the "us" as I would not have you foolishly imagine I could exclude my own wicked self, saved by grace alone, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa). That there can be such an incredibly Pharisaical pretense of concern for either righteous talk in the pulpit or "contextualization" while those involved clearly despise each another in practical misotheism, either by coldness or lukewarmness, is not a Christian testimony and is certainly a scandal of the Gospel perpetrated by both sides for which both sides will answer to God as the stench covers the earth by at least two brothers who clearly don't give a damn about each other or the God of the Bible (only the one made in the image of the mirror as we all do, James 1:23-24), just self-righteous, worldly posturing.

I remember how back in the '90s my own fellowship received similarly postured "caring" concern over our alleged errors, some real, some not, including the usual lovely, edifying falsehoods and delicious half-truths repeated second-hand by similarly incommunicative and arrogant outsiders, most of whom of course conveniently never cared actually personally to visit to validate matters (flagrantly contrary to and condemned by Proverbs 18:8, Proverbs 22:26 & Matthew 18:15), as common today, though of course there are always uncounted hours and dollars spent on worldly things like cruises as thousands perish without the Gospel and with hunger (including the saints (1John 3:17, 1John 4:20))). Accusers included a local city church leader later found out to be committing adultery as he hurled his bombs against us, like in John 8:1-11, before a gleeful watching misotheist world (Matthew 18:6), eager for excuses by which to despise God's Church as such a scandal plagued both our city and part of the world, wickedness certainly the case with at least some of those presently egging on the practicing misotheist combatants trapped by the self-righteous self-deception of most of us, 1John 1:10. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

If only Phil and Mark and their fellows would quite the posturing game and cry out for God's Holy Spirit to bring us conviction of sin and revive His Church lest He have to destroy it as He surely should now in her wretched self-deceived state so deranged as to pretend self-righteousness as the world laughs at the utter lack of the righteous terror fear of the Lord (Revelation 1:17) in which alone there can be a shred of wisdom, showing John would have been appalled at the delusion of the those who imagine the Biblical fear of the Lord is mere "reverential awe", grossly eisegeting 1John 4:18.
God save us all.
Russ

paulshirley said...

For all of you desperately trying to figure out how you can preach through "SoS" let me help you out. Steve Kreloff (Verse-by-Verse Radio on the side bar) recently did the best work that I have ever heard on the book. All you have to do is google "steve kreloff song of solomon" and you can solve the great mystery of how to preach through "SoS."

P.S. Just let me give you a fair warning. He takes the literal view (which is the right one), and he preaches it w/o using crude language. I hope that won't be a disappointment to some of you.

sem said...

Tournifreak-
I've only posted one other time but my exasperation has inspired me again. Lest I be accused of being unkind, I will say this as mildly as I can...AHHHHHHH! You have asked the same question repeatedly for two, yes, TWO metas. Asked and answered. Holy cow! How many times can your question be answered before you will stop asking? You don't like the answer. Ok. Got it. Let's move on. There are 66 books. Why the obsession with this one?

Russ-
Seriously man. Every meta is not an invitation to riff on your Calvinism=Heresy thing.

I've been reading here for about eight months and learned a great deal. I love the back and forth of serious debate that is found on here most of the time. But the above two are hair-pullingly aggravating. Come on, guys.

DJP said...

At least he didn't say he was a "reformed" "charismatic" again.

That's some kind of progress, isn't it?

bassicallymike said...

Tournifreak, your pic....

Are you supposed to be praying or urinating?

Denis said...

Frank,

To be honest, it seems to me like you are conflating the rejection of an allegorical interpretation of the Song of Solomon with the desire/propensity to make Scripture "sexy and raunchy".

In your zeal to address the errors you saw in Tournifreak's application of his reading of the Song of Solomon, you undertook a full frontal assault on his underlying interpretation - an interpretation held by other solid Bible-believing Christians.

I think your comments can fairly be understood as labelling those holding to this interpretation itself as being stupendously ignorant since Tournifreak's, albeit brief, explanation of it is essentially the same as you would find from other sources (he said, in part: I don't see any NT evidence of SoS being about anything other than human love and sexuality.).

For example, I don't see how your stated qualifications for the ESVSB would exempt the commentator from being any different than Tournifreak in regard to his interpretation. Simply acknowledging different views exist and are historic doesn't really detract from the interpretation he ultimately promotes. Even Tournifreak alluded to effectively the same facts, though more provocatively and not to the detail that 3000+ word article did, and that did not let him off the proverbial hook.

I just don't see your comments as a fair assessment of the interpretation (or, perhaps more accurately, the interpreters and those that adhere to their teaching).

Eric said...

Russ,

Umm, can you repeat the part of the stuff where you said all about the...things?

Tournifreak said...

paulshirley,
From a (very) brief listen, it sounds *very* similar to MD's series. Not sure if you see that as a good or bad thing though ;-)

greglong said...

I am a daily reader of Pyros, and have benefited greatly from the articles posted here. Phil, thank you for your message at Shepherds’. I downloaded and listened to it in its entirety. I have to say that I’m torn, though, because I agree with the message in essence, but, like Tournafreak, have some questions about it.

I agree with the message in essence because it was biblical and hard-hitting. It needed to be said. Some of what comes forth from “evangelical” pulpits today is disturbing.

Many young pastors feel the need to be more “relevant” by using exactly the kinds of speech that are condemned in Eph. 5:4. Thank you for your exegesis and application of this verse.

Thank you also for dealing with common objections, such as the passages that are often used to defend such speech. While I think there are some legitimate questions that can be asked about passages such as Eze. 23 and Gal. 5:12 and how they pertain to strong speech, I always remind myself that I am not God (Ezekiel) and I am not the apostle Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Galatians). And so, I would rather err on the side of Eph. 5:4 than Gal. 5:12.

HSAT, I did have some questions as I listened to your sermon. Please take them in the spirit in which they are given: humbly, with a desire to learn.

1. Why did you say, “I am tempted to call it the ‘pornification of the pulpit’”? Should I take that statement to mean you would, or would not, call what is happening in evangelicalism today “the pornification of the pulpit”? If you would, why not just come out and say it rather than using the qualifier “I’m tempted to call it...”? If you wouldn’t, and were just tempted to do so, why did you even use the phrase? Why do you need to use the word “porn”, if not for shock value?

2. In your post above, you stated, “If you had read everything on my blog about it, you would know that I have never once accused Mark Driscoll of using ‘cuss words.’” However, you did say in your message that Paul was never called the “cussing apostle.” Were you referring to Mark Driscoll by this statement? If so, then aren’t you condemning him for being called “the cussing pastor”? If not, could you help me understand your statement?

3. I really, really, REALLY wish Pastor Driscoll would stop using the joke on Ecc. 9:10. I agree that it clearly falls within the bounds of “foolishness,” foolish talk,” or “crude joking”. I’m especially saddened that he did so on national TV. I also thought several statements Driscoll made in his sermon on “Humor” in the “Religion Saves and Nine Other Misconceptions” were over the line. If I had been present during that sermon, I might have walked out.

However, I have listened to almost all of his sermons on the Song of Solomon. I have found them to be biblical, practical, and helpful. I cannot think of any objectionable content. If you know of any, please point it out to me. I agree with Tournifreak that some who have not listened to Driscoll are taking what you are saying to mean that he constantly engages in crude, filthy, foul language. No, you didn’t say that, but many are inferring it.

There is much to appreciate about Driscoll’s ministry, but I cannot fully recommend it because of the concerns you and others have noted. A year or two ago I heard him tell the story about an elder in his church who came to him and asked the following:

“Pastor Mark, what would you like to be known for?

He responded, “For preaching about Jesus” (or something like that).

The elder said, “Well, I think you’re known for your mouth instead.”

Mark said it really convicted him. I think there has been SOME progress; however, I wish he would understand that one of the things he is still known for is his strong language (as evidenced by the NYT article). My hope and prayer is that he would listen to your call to heed Eph. 5:4: “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving” (ESV).

I would also encourage others who have only had secondhand exposure to his ministry to listen to the peasantprincess series on the Song of Solomon and judge for themselves.

Eric said...

Tournifreak,

Would you disagree with the assertion that the following passage of Scripture constitutes "some evidence" that SoS is about more than human love and sexuality?

Luke 24:27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

Frank Turk said...

| Come on Frank - have you not read
| what I said? I have repeatedly
| condemned MD's use of *that* joke.

Now see – that’s not actually the funny part. This next bit is the funny part.

| I haven't heard MD's talks on the
| humanity of Jesus so I can't really
| comment on them. Apart from *that
| joke* I havent come across anything
| in his recent Peasant Princess series
| that I found objectionable, or that I
| feel fell short of Titus 2.

See? Because Phil didn’t repeat, word for word, the offending bits, and because Tournifreak hasn’t heard them, when we look at Tournifreak’s statement:

You did make several references to Driscoll in your message, and even if you didn't directly accuse him, there was certainly lots of guilt piled on by association. Without firm examples, what do people assume he's said?

I haven’t “read what he has said”, and I haven’t really given TF a fair shake. I’m the one who is jumping to conclusions and not responding to what has actually been said.

| I'm trying to
| broaden the subject beyond, "don't
| do this..." to "do this instead..."
| While I agreed with Phil's message, I
| think it raised legitimate questions
| about what the better way is,
| especially when it comes to issues of
| sexuality.
|
| Beyond that Frank, the tone of your
| comments seem more personal abuse
| than anything designed to build up or
| teach.

I am sure you think so. My opinion is that you are playing willful ignorance out as innocence, and trying to pretend you don’t see the obvious in order to ask questions which, frankly, don’t really deserve an answer because they are not really questions but veiled criticisms.

| Not once have I criticised
| Phil's message and (to the best of my
| ability and knowledge) I have been
| gracious throughout. Yet instead of
| gentle correction, you question my
| Biblical knowledge, intelligence,
| calling and pretty much accuse me of
| blasphemy. Are people actually
| allowed to ask questions on here? Or
| is anyone with less knowledge than
| you just ridiculed into submission?

Sure: the latter if those are the only two choices. Because there are only ever two choices, right? It’s either epicurian sex or castration, wooden-literal or useless allegory, belittlement or subsmission to your skepticism.

And those are the examples from your posts today, TF. Please let’s not pretend that you have merely, passively dictated humble and self-effacing questions and I have savaged you (at least up until this point – I admit I have taken the jagged-edged keyboard out for this post). You have been tenacious to ask pointed and frankly-clear questions as they regard those who disagree with you. You have gotten the same in return.

| Have I thought it all through? No.

You should have stopped at that declaration, TF. See: my point today with you is that you have not thought this through. I have said it in a variety of ways. That you admit it only points to this problem: if you have not thought this through, what are you defending or redressing?

| If I had written a treatise on the subject
| then you could quite legitimately
| burn it down. All I have done is ask
| questions - I'm trying to work it
| though. And frankly, Frank, although
| I appreciate your insight, I don't
| appreciate your tone.

Really? It’s “only questions”?

So you have no objective in mind in equating the position of Phil’s talk to Origen’s castration of himself?

Then I think, as far as tone goes, I still have the high ground. I advocate strongly for something which, at least, I have thought through. You muse about castration on a whim.

| I'm sure much
| of what you wrote is correct, and I
| appreciate your time in replying. But
| the way you wrote it just makes me
| want to rebel against it. Perhaps
| you're just being American and I'm
| just being British???

Rubbish. You simply don’t like being told that your so-called “questions” are transparently advocating for something Phil has already rejected.

| That said...
| "This is the problem: I have no doubt
| that between 1920 and 1990 there
| were probably not a dozen sermons
| preached in the English-speaking
| world by orthodox Protestants on the
| Song of Songs...But that doesn’t give
| us license today to preach on it as if
| it was a how-to manual for married
| sex."
|
| By your own admission, the church
| has (until recently) largely ignored
| Biblical teaching on sexuality from
| the book of the Bible that most
| directly addresses it. In the age we
| live in (more $ spent on porn than all
| professional sport in the USA,
| apparently), how can that be a good
| thing?

You know: I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, but when you read what I said this way, it seems obvious to me you don’t want to offer the benefit of the doubt. And this is at least the third time you have done this.

The church didn’t ignore anything: the church simply used the text as it was intended rather than trying to impress upon it a use which was not intended.

But to your question, the bad thing is taking the pornified culture and reading Scripture through it. The bad thing is taking Scripture and assuming that the writer of the Song of Solomon had more in common with Hugh Hefner than he did with Jesus Christ.

There is only one place to begin any discussion on this book: the admission that it is not intended to be used in the same way, for example, as dime-store romance novels. If we cannot agree on that, then the rest of this discussion is completely useless.

But if we can agree on that, then almost all of your questions really fold up the tents and have to go on their way. If the SoS is not a book meant to titillate, then using it to titillate is, frankly, out of bounds.

| Of course I don't think SoS "should be
| milked for it's prurient value". But
| how would you preach on SoS 2:3?

In the context of the rest of the book! How would you preach Hosea 2?

See -- without the SoS, the vicious betrayal in Hosea is theoretical at best. But interpreting SoS as a prophetic prelude to the rest of the Prophets – suddenly the Bible is not about us but about God. And since the Bible actually is a book about God, perhaps we ought to read it that way.

| Obviously you wouldn't spend a
| whole sermon on it but I'm genuinely
| interested in how you handle it.

In the context it was intended, which is the covenantal context of the OT. You know: when one reads Ps 3 and interprets then that God is an ultimate street fighter, punching people in the mouth like a brawler, we should be offended – because our God is not a brawler, not a tough who gets his way by being a bad boy.

If we should not read Ps 3 as God the MMA champion, we should not read SoS as a sex manual.

| Label it as prurient and skip over it?
| Allegorise it? (Matthew Henry sees it
| as an image of the church resting in
| the shadow of the Almighty) Explain
| what Solomon was getting at and use
| it as an opportunity to explain that
| actually God invented sex and thinks
| it's a good thing (in marriage)?

I would read it as the poem that it is, and consider what it means to receive the fruit of one’s lover in the covenantal context. You can interpret it, I am sure, in any number of more-sensual meanings. The problem is that it then is utterly disconnected from the purpose and meaning of the OT.

| I think the discussion over intimate
| and public is an interesting one. I
| don't see how discussing intimate
| themes in a public way, as the Bible
| does, detracts from actually being
| intimate. Surely having a Biblical
| grasp of intimacy will make the
| practice of that intimacy all the
| more wonderful?

You feel free to provide an example of the Bible discussing private things in a public way – in contexts other than where the private thing is a shame which must be brought to light. For example, what David did in private was made public to his shame. What Judah did in private was made public to his shame.

Give us an example of things which ought to be private which the Bible brings up publicly except to shame those who did them.

| About the context of SoS:
| Some have identified the Shulamite
| woman as Abishag. I thought
| everyone thought the central
| character is Solomon? That places
| the book in a context. I didn't say it
| just tells us "how to". It's much wider
| than that. Perhaps you should listen
| to the MD series too?

Ah. It’s not a “how-to” manual then. So you are retracting your previous statement that it is like the Karma Sutra?

Great. Then I retract what I said in response to your mis-statement. But let’s not find ourselves asking questions about the alleged how-to aspect of this book if we agree it’s not a how-to book.

| I just saw that Dennis has made my
| point for me about the merits of the
| allegorical interpretation of SoS.
| Don't you acknowledge there is *any*
| danger with over-allegorising it to
| the point of ignoring the obvious
| plain meaning? (Which is what most
| commentators have done over the
| centuries.)

It’s funny what you think you know about “centuries” of commentators when you don’t know that it’s not at all clear whether Solomon is the bridegroom in this poem.

Listen: decide what you think you know about the SoS, and then decide how you think it ought to be preached, and then you’ll be equipped to ask questions about whether it’s right to use this book as those whom Phil has already rebuked use it.

Frank Turk said...

Denis --

It's interesting that you are willing to interpret what I said to TF as a condemnation of all versions of this opinion, overlooking what I actually said in response to you. That method of reasoning really inspires me to reform my ways.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Stefan said...

All of this talk about Song of Solomon is a red herring, but anyhow...

Frank, Tournifreak, et al.:

Surely it's possible to treat Song of Solomon as a song of courtship and romance within marriage (the repeated exhortations to not consummate until the protagonists are married), and at the same time being a model of covenant faithfulness between God and Israel.

(These are the two numbered points from Denis' excerpt from the ESV Study Bible, and the second point in particular seems to be exactly the same as the Song's primary theme as Frank sees it.)

Surely it's possible to do this, and even preach exegetically through it, without exegeting every single allusion to physical intimacy in prurient detail.

A pastor doesn't normally exegete every single phrase in the week's text, but rather exegetes the main points, presents the theme of the passage, and applies it to his hearers.

There is no section of Song of Solomon in which the main point is extolling this or that expression of physical intimacy; but rather celebrating the preciousness of said intimacy within a covenant relationship between husband and wife.

Tournifreak:

Reformed folks do talk about human sexuality! Piper and Mahaney come to mind; and one-on-one in pastoral counselling, or (I'm guessing) in single-gender groups (men's or women's), marriage groups, pre-marital counselling, and so on. There are many, many appropriate times and places where this fundamental aspect of God-given human nature is discussed in a way that is healthy, edifying, honest, and frank, without reducing physical intimacy to the commodity and mere expression of lust that it is in today's secular culture.

Phil Johnson said...

Denis: "To be honest, it seems to me like you are conflating the rejection of an allegorical interpretation of the Song of Solomon with the desire/propensity to make Scripture 'sexy and raunchy.'"

I can't really speak for Frank, but I think there's a context that explains pretty simply what Frank means. He's making a valid (and to my mind obvious) point. See Driscoll's intro to Song of Solomon, and listen for the bit where he explains why he thinks it's about sex, pure and simple, and cannot be applied to the believer's relationship with Christ.

Incidentally, I'm not an advocate for purely allegorical interpretations of Song of Solomon, even though as Frank points out, the church has historically employed allegory in dealing with that text.

On the other hand, I strenuously oppose the assumption of those who seem to insist that a straightforward normal reading of that book rules out any reference to Christ.

This was one of the points I tried to make in my letter to Driscoll. He blew off the notion that Song of Solomon has anything to do with our love for Christ with the remark that he loves Jesus, but not like that. Eeeww!

I suggested that it's blasphemous to speak in such a way about Christ, and in Driscoll's videotaped reply, he answered by saying when he made that comment he was not really mocking Jesus but a false idea about Jesus.

The problem with that excuse is that even if we stipulate (as I am willing to do) that Song of Solomon is first and foremost a poem about marital love, Scripture clearly teaches (in numerous ways, starting with the explicit statement of Ephesians 5:23) that the union of husband and wife itself is a picture of Christ's relationship with His church. So the homosexual joke turns out to be utterly inappropriate after all. (And I'm still prepared to argue that it's blasphemous.)

Likewise, even though I would grant that Solomon's Song is a poem about the marital relationship, my conclusion would be that it therefore has everything to do with the believer's relationship with our Savior. Far be it from me to champion allegorization as a hermeneutical technique, but in the end, even a "literal" interpretation of Solomon's Song ought to get us much closer to the historic interpretation of that text than to Driscoll's blasphemous joke about queer love.

Incidentally, no one interprets Song of Solomon "literally." While I would not say the poem is merely an allegory; it's not "literal," either. It is purposely poetic and very carefully euphemistic. As I said in that message at Shepherds' Conference, "Song of Solomon elevates the expression of marital love by speaking of it in beautiful and poetic terms. This is the exact opposite of what is happening in the church today, where the beauty and dignity of marital intimacy is being dragged through the gutter."

The answer to Tournifreak's repeated question is implied in that point, incidentally.

Tournifreak:

1. I do think your clash with Frank is partly owing to differences in communication styles between Americans and inhabitants of the UK. As an anglophile, I interpreted your questions as legitimate questions; not merely belligerent challenges. Americans, accustomed to a more in-your-face style of communication, are probably more likely to assume you have a chip on our shoulder. We ourselves are barbaric. Sorry.

2. But for that very reason it's odd (isn't it?) that you seem to be defending the deliberately crass attempts at edginess that we're offended by in Driscoll's style.

3. Steve Kreloff's Song of Solomon's sermons can't be compared to Driscoll's. Choose any one of Kreloff's, and then listen to either the video (from a Saturday night session) or the mp3 (from a Sunday morning series) of the messages Driscoll gave there in Scotland. If Kreloff made any comment that equates to Driscoll's public characterization of his wife as his "own personal petting zoo," flag it for me, will you? Kreloff has been my best friend for nearly 40 years. If he said anything on that level, I'll have a little talk with him.

Mike Riccardi said...

One intriguing fact stands out in all the criticisms of that message: not a single critic has challenged my interpretation of Titus 2:7-8; Ephesians 4:29; 5:3-4; or the third commandment (Exodus 20:7).

I've found that trend popping up during some lessons I've been teaching. You present Scripture, give an exegetical interpretation of that passage, and present implications and conclusions. If those implications and conclusions are "icky" to the audience, they don't respond with a Scriptural refutation of my interpretation of the passage. They obfuscate by citing personal emotions and a priori maxims, like, "Well God is love," and "But we can't be certain the way God can be certain."

Such statements -- as well as those you're receiving -- need to be backed up with Scripture. I'm reminded of something Mark Dever said when speaking to someone who was offering ideas about what they thought God was like. He said, "Well, thanks for telling us so much about yourself, but if we could move on to talking about God now, that'd be great."

Tournifreak said...

Eric said...
"Would you disagree with the assertion that the following passage of Scripture constitutes "some evidence" that SoS is about more than human love and sexuality?
Luke 24:27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself."

Eric,
I'll show you how this text applies to SoS when you've shown me how that same text applies to Judges 5:24-27 (for example - I could have chosen many others)

My point is that certainly the OT points to Jesus in all sorts of profound ways (type, allegory, prophecy). But does that mean every single verse? Or even every passage? (SoS is only 117 verses I think)

I'm sure there is allegory in SoS about Christ/Church, but to say it's the only thing, or even the most important thing, I think is incorrect.

Frank Turk said...

The case is closed for two reasons:

[1] Shinar Squirrel has already agreed with me, so case closed.

[2] TF does not think Jeuss is the most important object of the OT, and cannot find him in Judges 5, so case closed.

If someone has more compelling reasons to continue this exchange, phone my cell.

Stefan said...

Judges 5:24-27:

We cannot fully love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength while we have idols in our lives that we have not repented of and sought God's help in rooting out.

The Israelites in the time of the Judges went through an endless cycle of fall, repentance, deliverance, and fall again, because the twelve tribes hadn't fulfilled their command to root out the Canaanites. With the Canaanites in their midst, the temptation to Baal worship (as the chief expression of the indulding in idolatry) would end up being the Israelites' undoing: both during the time of the Judges, and later from Solomon on down through the divided Monarchy, to the ultimate fall of the Northern Kingdom to Assyria and the Southern Kingdom to Babylon.

God had to send His Son Jesus Christ to do what the Israelites—and you and I likewise—both would not do, nor could do without God's help: overcome the idols in our own lives, and in our midst, so that we can worship God as He would have us worship Him.

Occasionally, we repent and rise above the muck and mire in which we are usually entrapped. The judgeship of Barak the prophetship of Deborah was one such representative event, when Israel was oppressed by Jabin the king of Canaan and his general Sisera. That episode came to an end when "the LORD [handed] Sisera into a hand of a woman" (Judges 4:9) and Sisera was vanquished by Jael (4:17-22; 5:24-27).

This is a less-than-stellar exegesis of Judges 5:24-27 done on short notice, but there you have it.

Stefan said...

I should say "Christological interpretation," not "exegesis" per se.

And I'm frankly embarrassed by how rough around the edges it is, but then, not even being a pastor, I've never felt pressed to deliver a made-to-order mini-sermon extemporaneously like this.

Shinar Squirrel said...

Shinar Squirrel has already agreed with me, so case closed

I did say my brain was fuzzy today...

(c:

The Squirrel

Shinar Squirrel said...

Stefan-

I'd say you nailed it!

The Squirrel

Fran said...

The thing about Ephesians 5:4 is its larger context. It's on fighting for unity in the church through the humble speaking of truth in love. Criticism that focuses solely on whether something fits the definition of "coarse" is at best only minimally helpful.

The problem is much deeper. There is a love problem--which is why the words that come from the pulpit there often aren't kind, patient, or humble. They are often rude and boastful. There is a harshness to the language there that goes way beyond words for sex or dung.

The thing is that I think there is a love problem here too. And therefore the criticism rings hollow. How have you actively pursued loving MD so that you could speak truth to him as God prescribes? How have you shown him kindness and patience? Have you been rude to him? Have you given him the benefit of the doubt on his motives? Have you believed the best of him? Have you kept a record of his wrongs?

I pray we can all better grasp that we are the chiefest of sinners so that any confrontation of others comes privately from a place of sincere loving humility.

Nothing else is effective.

Aaron said...

As far as Ephesians 5:4 and what is condemed by it. I feel it would not only condem corse or "dirty" languge. But also other things such as obsequious or fawning speech. Along with humour that is corse, risqe, or insipd this all is also I feel an stwerdship issue. Stwerdship of your words, time, and actions are importent also.

Carol Jean said...

First, in defense of the ESVSB, in the "History of Salvation in the OT" section, there is a SoS section which says,

The Song of Solomon depicts marital love....The connection with Solomon invites us to think especially of the marriage of the king in the line of David and the kings point forward to Christ the great king, who has the church as his bride.

It then lists 17 verses that connect SoS to Christ.

Phil said,

I don't condemn "strong language" per se. On the contrary, I like robust, vivid language. What I deplore is profane, filthy, lewd, or irreverent talk.

I do think your clash with Frank is partly owing to differences in communication styles between Americans and inhabitants of the UK.

it's odd (isn't it?) that you seem to be defending the deliberately crass attempts at edginess that we're offended by in Driscoll's style


Therein lies a big problem we have in our culture these days. There is a strange juxtaposition with postmoderns. They don't like straightforward, concrete language - if you listen to them for more than 5 minutes, you'll hear they like to end their statements with question marks. But filthy speech, crude speech, is tolerated in the name of contextualization. Words with hard edges are not PC, but crude language is hip.

My son was blackballed at a history competition this weekend because he made strong statements about Woodrow Wilson. The judges told him he should have said, "Woodrow Wilson may have been a racist." "Perhaps Wilson's legacy has been distorted over time." One judge said people might be offended by saying "Wilson was a racist." Disparaging a liberal icon aside, I suspect this same judge wouldn't be offended by "foul" or "smutty" language. Only strong and concrete language are verboten in today's culture - and unfortunately, in the church.

Phil Johnson said...

(I corrected some misspellings in my previous comment and reposted. Frank and others evidently posted whilst I was doing that, and it put my comment out of order. Sorry. I won't do that again.

Frank's latest long comment was actually posted after mine, even though our comments appear in the opposite order. What Frank said therefore trumps my comments.)

More questions:

Greglong: 1. "Why did you say, 'I am tempted to call it the "pornification of the pulpit"'? Should I take that statement to mean you would, or would not, call what is happening in evangelicalism today 'the pornification of the pulpit'? If you would, why not just come out and say it rather than using the qualifier 'I'm tempted to call it...'? If you wouldn't, and were just tempted to do so, why did you even use the phrase? Why do you need to use the word 'porn', if not for shock value?"

As I said in the above post, I have no objection to strong language. I rather like it. There's nothing wrong with "shock value" per se, properly employed. That's what I was pointing out when I said that while Scripture never uses vile or filthy language that defiles, it does sometimes employ vivid and even shocking language, albeit judiciously.

Perhaps you were misled by my use of the word "tempted." That's a common figure of speech ("I'm tempted to ask whether you were really serious in raising this objection."). I wasn't implying that I think there would be something wrong with the expression "pornification" or even the word porn. (Note that I also described lowbrow sex-talk as "porn-slang" and used that word without apology, and look at the title of this post, without disclaimer.) If I thought the word porn itself too vile to use, I would not have brought it up in the first place.

Sorry if the word "tempted" was misleading. I'll have to dump that cliche.

Again, I don't think the point I am making is anywhere near as complex or arcane as some people seem to want to make it. I am not objecting to the mere mention of sex, or even porn. I'm objecting to the casual, flippant, familiar, and/or profane ways it has become popular to talk almost obsessively about such things, especially from the pulpit.

Greglong: "2. In your post above, you stated, 'If you had read everything on my blog about it, you would know that I have never once accused Mark Driscoll of using "cuss words."' However, you did say in your message that Paul was never called the "cussing apostle." Were you referring to Mark Driscoll by this statement? If so, then aren't you condemning him for being called 'the cussing pastor'? If not, could you help me understand your statement?"

Yes, my remark to the effect that no one would ever have thought to refer to Paul to as "the cussing apostle" contained an oblique reference to the sobriquet Donald Miller (not me) bestowed on his friend. Furthermore (you didn't raise this question, but others have), my reference to the lead sentence in the NYT article did not necessarily indicate that I believed the sentence was accurate in such a way that it could withstand every layer of deconstruction Driscoll's defenders have subjected it to.

Both statements were simply pointing out that crass language and off-color humor are very high on the list of things Mark Driscoll is best known for. He has gained that reputation not because of anything I have said about him, but because of the approach to language and culture he himself advocates and practices. He has purposely fostered that image for himself. Furthermore, his critics are not the ones who have done the most to publicize that aspect of his reputation. Most of the hype about it has come from those who appreciate and admire his swashbuckle. (That would include Donald Miller—and more lately the NYT, D. L. Hughley, et al.)

I too am aware that Driscoll once said he doesn't want to be remembered for cultivating the very thing Isaiah and Moses were ashamed of (Isaiah 6:5; Exodus 6:12). But that is what he is currently known for, and it's precisely the aspect of his character that he and his acolytes most passionately defend. If he truly wants to change the legacy he is going to leave, he needs to do much more than whatever he has done to bridle his tongue. You say you think you see "SOME progress." Perhaps I'm unaware of how much worse the problem was before he began making scatological jokes to illustrate the humanity of Christ, but I only started to listen to him about the same time he gave that series, and I don't detect any change for the better.

Greglong: "3. . . . I have listened to almost all of his sermons on the Song of Solomon. I have found them to be biblical, practical, and helpful. I cannot think of any objectionable content. If you know of any, please point it out to me."

I have, already done so, and I'm not going to give graphic descriptions of everything I find objectionable. Let me just say that I think he seems to work hard to put the most lowbrow interpretation possible on some of Solomon's most obscure metaphors. Driscoll is able to find references to oral sex and masturbation in places where no serious commentator in the history of the church ever saw them before. Song of Solomon as an expression of intimate love between two people is beautiful and poetic. In Driscoll's hands it starts to sound like a pornographer's screenplay.

If you want a single-message summary of the most objectionable things (Driscoll himself refers to these as "the good bits"), find that single sermon he gave at Destiny church in Edinburgh. Listen to it and then get back to me if you really see no reason to be appalled.

Atone said...

Phil,

We always don't see eye-to-eye on things, but if there is one area where your critics are forced to split-hairs in order to condemn you with your own words it is this one. If anything, you often "fall all over yourself" to get the right word, in the right context, and in the right setting. Yeah, you've gone overboard here and while preaching...who hasn't? But honestly, where in the world does good contextualization say anything about "casting off all restraint" and the hyper-sensitivity that follows when someone more learned and more reasonable calls them on it. Kudos, brother.

Brad

Atone said...

..and for the record, your assessments of Mark and his church qualify here, but this should not be a license to demonize you simply because Driscoll has drawn your ire. It'd be nice, for a change, to see Mark's defenders more calmly and rationally enter this discussion, rather than just to castigate you into the same tidy, white-washed theological boxes they already believe you operate under.

Brad

Eric said...

Tournifreak,

I'm confused as to why you choose not to give me a straight answer to my simple question. Please don't confuse things by trying to turn things around on me. To begin with, I did not ask you to show me "how this text applies to SoS". Are you willing to stand behind your statements made here, or not? Please hold yourself accountable to your own words.

You said: "I don't see any NT evidence of SoS being about anything other than human love and sexuality" Notice the words "any" and "anything other". I asked a simple question to you in light of these words and this statement, yet you seem unwilling to answer.

Stefan did a nice job with a quick Christological interpretation of the passage you reference, so I'll abstain. My point wasn't to get into a theological warfare over the exact interpretation of random verses in the Bible. The point was in contrast to your assertion that you find no evidence in the NT that SoS has to do with anything but human love and sexuality. I will say this: if you don't view the entirety of Scripture through the lens of Jesus Christ, then I feel sorry for you.

So, I guess my question remains: Do you agree or disagree with the assertion that the passage I quoted provides "some evidence" that SoS is about more than human love and sexuality?

greglong said...

Thanks for your helpful explanations, Phil.

I've only listened to the series as given at Mars Hill. I've not heard the sermon he gave at the church in Scotland.

Frank Turk said...

Oh brother --

before this gets out of hand, the ESVSB doesn't need any defending. WOW! I disgree with the intro it gives to the Song of Songs, but that doesn't mean I think we need to banish it from our hearts and quiet times.

Frank Turk doesn't hate the ESVSB (any more or less than he hates any other study bible), and to prove it, he speaks in the third person to deny any affiliation with the haters of the ESVSB. I can't say that any more plainly, and I shouldn't even have to say that.

Phil Johnson said...

Atone: ". . . rather than just to castigate you into the same tidy, white-washed theological boxes they already believe you operate under."

Exactamundo. I'm eventually going to deal with Driscoll's shopworn assertion that his critics are just stuck in the 1950s and pining to bring back that era.

Look at Dan Kimball's blog-header, and then come back here and hit reload a few times to see the artwork that comes up randomly in our header. Now ask yourself: which one of us seems most drawn to retro-50s kitsch?

Not that there's anything wrong with Kimball's blog-design, mind you. It's just that I'm hardly the one stuck in the 1950s!

Oh, and Brad: Good to see you back.

DJP said...

Turk, a ESVSB hater. I can't believe it.

Oh, sticklebats -- what if JT boycotts us now?

Carol Jean said...

....and in order to spare Frank's tender, postmodern sensibilities, I should have said, "In order to perpetuate an atmosphere of love, tolerance, and positive communication in the meta, I offer, in Christian love, some edifying words from the ESVSB.....

: )

DJP said...

Phil — I was thinking about the "cussing pastor," and how you've been faulted for alluding to that appellation from Miller and the NYT.

You mention it, defenders say "It's old!" and "Besides, who cares what the NYT says?"

I wonder if your underlying point was well made by Spurgeon:

"As John Angell James remarks, 'When a preacher of righteousness has stood in the way of sinners, he should never again open his lips in the great congregation until his repentance is as notorious as his sin.'"

IOW, whatever the NYT's accuracy, doesn't it at least reflect this: that any repentance of Driscoll's over his bad mouth is not yet nearly as notorious as his transgressions?

And that his repeated use of nasty puns, etc., is not helping shift notorieties?

Darby Livingston said...

"To unpack all the sex in SoS and make our Christian marriages more like Tommy and Pam’s marriage?"

Frank, how exactly does one who fast forwards through the opening credits of Madden know about Tommy and Pam's marriage? :)

Carol Jean said...

The thing you're forgetting is that you're allowed be kitschy if you have hipster hair like Kimball. Google Image 'Phil Johnson hair' and you get this guy.

Plus, it's hard to say you're not kitschy when your lead pic today is a Wacky Package.

(not complaining - I was the biggest fan EVER of WP's back in the 70's : )

greglong said...

DJP, I would agree with that.

Stuart B said...

Ok...I might have missed a point or two of your. And thank you for pointing out my sloppy speling. I thought I was responding specifically to what you had written today, and not your sermon from before.

I misunderstood. I hope I didn't come across as disrespectful. I really do read Pyromaniacs, and it's been especially interesting to hear the various reactions to Internet Monk's recent articles. I apologize if I came across as flippant or disrespectful.

Phil...Can you explain what you mean by hearing words that are "spiritually defiling"? Those two words I'm uncertain of. Christ says we should desire a pure heart, and yet your own testimony says we can't attain that yet. So, in light of wanting a pure heart, what does "spiritually defiling" mean?

Also, I understand why you keep on repeating that you never once accused Mark Driscoll of using cuss words...but isn't that like making a comment that you think our President seems to keep making dumb statements and yet denying that you ever said "Obama" said anything dumb?

Frankly, at the end of it all, I agree with you, but I'm still confused on a few points. The pulpit is not holy; no one debates this. But there should still be an honor and respect for God's word.

Frank Turk said...

Darby:

I read about it on the BBC news back in the day. How else would I know?

Tournifreak said...

Eric said, "my question remains: Do you agree or disagree with the assertion that the passage I quoted provides "some evidence" that SoS is about more than human love and sexuality?"

I think I answered that already:
"I'm sure there is allegory in SoS about Christ/Church, but to say it's the only thing, or even the most important thing, I think is incorrect."

Like I said, the reason I introduced the Judges passage was to show that when Jesus explained what was said about him in all the scriptures, surely he was talking in a broad sense. Surely he didn't mean in every verse or in every paragraph. Indeed for Stefan to find any Christiological significance, he had to quote from a much larger context. I don't think it is at all easy to find Christ in every single verse of scripture. And if we try to do that, as some have done with SoS, we end up with some frankly laughable interpretations.

Like I asked Frank, don't you think there's a danger of over-allegorising SoS and missing out on the wisdom contained therein? After all, we don't ignore the wisdom of Proverbs just because we can find Christiological significance in some of them do we?

Darby Livingston said...

Frank,

I thought maybe someone used it as a sermon illustration somewhere. :)

Tournifreak said...

Phil,
2. But for that very reason it's odd (isn't it?) that you seem to be defending the deliberately crass attempts at edginess that we're offended by in Driscoll's style.

Yes, I agree it's odd. Perhaps that's why he seems so exciting to us Brits. Or me anyway. We're a bit emotionally retarded compared to you folks.

3. Steve Kreloff's Song of Solomon's sermons can't be compared to Driscoll's.
Thanks for the recommendation. I'll check him out. From my very brief listen, the content and approach sounded similar, but I have no doubt you're right about him. It's the kind of recommendation I've asked for several times, and I'm really pleased someone has come up with someone who is prepared to tackle the issues, not fudge the clear content of SoS, and yet not use the dubious jokes of Driscoll.

Strong Tower said...

((he said, in part: I don't see any NT evidence of SoS being about anything other than human love and sexuality.)

Frank saith: "But of course, you have to read SoS a little more “allegorically” to see Christ in that part of the OT. I am sure it makes me personally a cold fish."

Jesus saith: "...And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself...These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled..."

So yah, all the Scripture points to Jesus, but if you isolate passages or allegorize away the meaning without reference to him the question must be asked: why is it there?

If Jesus sequestered the whole of Scripture as speaking of Him, the allegorizing of SoS to point toward anything other diminishes the purpose for which it is included in the Canon. To look toward allegorical types that do not look towards Him is to look away from Him.

It does not matter if it were texts used for a "purpose driven" life or business principles derived from Scripture, or as a sex manual. To do any of those things is to drive a wedge between the intent that Jesus describes and the understanding desired by Him in his followers.

The titilation by violating moral conscience works only as a barkers call at a carnival side-show. Inside what is promised turns out to be only smoke and mirrors and the illusion of reality. Far different is that which is explained as the knowing of Truth which sets people free. To not point to Christ is to offer one form of bondage for another.

Bottom line is that those who make a show out of the Gospel as revealed in any book, make a mockery of the One who inspired it to reveal Himself to its audience. The distraction is not a work of the Spirit, then is it? It stands for what it is: the means of some men to make a living off the Gospel with no true concern for the Truth.

Atone said...

"Oh, and Brad: Good to see you back."

mmmm...yeah..and I deserve the knowing smile that may have gone with that comment. Three years and little growing up will do that. Thanks for the gracious (and undeserved) welcome back.

Brad

Stefan said...

Tournifreak:

Yes, I had to quote from a much larger context. But we do need to read all of Scripture in context, otherwise it's just a collection of proof-texts or "promise notes" (is that the term?). And if you're aspiring to ministry—and I wish you all blessings on that—you will need to learn to read any passage of Scripture not only for what it says in and of itself, but also how it ties into the overall redemptive narrative, at the centre of which is Jesus Christ.

That said, I do agree that the plain meaning Song of Solomon cannot simply be allegorized away, but as I and others have already replied, there are ways to treat it that do not turn it into a how-to guide on physical intimacy.

And again, there are many places in church where it would be appropriate and even proper to deal perhaps more frankly and openly with questions relating to physical intimacy, but in smaller groups (men's, women's, marriage, pre-marital) or counselling settings tailored to such discussions—in the bigger context of the covenant of marriage, especially (I would think) in light of what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 (!).

In other words, no one hear would say that it's wrong or unhealthy for Christians to tackle these questions—better with other Christians than what we get from the TV!—but at levels of frankness that are commensurate with the appropriateness of the time and place.

Denis said...

Frank,

You wrote: It's interesting that you are willing to interpret what I said to TF as a condemnation of all versions of this opinion, overlooking what I actually said in response to you.

Sorry, I did try to explain why I was understanding your critique to apply to the interpretation itself, as opposed to TF exclusively, and even tried speaking to your specific points in response to my initial message. Apparently I failed.

Phil,

Thank you for the additional thoughts. I likely am missing at least some of the context surrounding the comments; I really haven't been exposed to any of Driscoll's material regarding the Song of Solomon.

Your explanations regarding Driscoll's thoughts on the matter do clarify things somewhat ... perhaps I'll have some time later to review more of what he teaches on this.

But if I am understanding you correctly, the issue isn't necessarily with interpreting the SoS as a poem primarily with the key themes being marriage and intimacy, but rather interpreting it as such with the absolute exclusion of any analogous meaning regarding God and Israel, Christ and the church. Is that correct?

Thanks again.

Michael Spencer said...

I'm a Driscoll supporter most of the time, but his SoS series was an exegetical and homiletical disaster and I said so at IM. Bad, bad stuff.

lawrence said...

Just for your consideration, Frank, and of course I don't even know you, and of course I said of your last post that it was the best thing I'd read on the Pyro's.......but your responses to tourniwhatever came across, to me, as slightly ridiculous, not because of your points themselves (which, of course, are correct) but because the way you were saying it was comically over the top.

Atone said...

I'm a Driscoll supporter most of the time, but his SoS series was an exegetical and homiletical disaster and I said so at IM. Bad, bad stuff.

Yowza!

If imonk and the chief Pyromaniac can agree wholeheartedly on something controversial does this mean that the rapture draws nigh?

:o)

Brad

Stefan said...

Before anyone else catches it: yes, I wrote "hear" for "here" in the last paragraph of my last comment. And no, I'm not proud of it.

donsands said...

Excellent post. Thanks. And good discussions on the thread.

"The problem with that excuse is that even if we stipulate (as I am willing to do) that Song of Solomon is first and foremost a poem about marital love, Scripture clearly teaches (in numerous ways, starting with the explicit statement of Ephesians 5:23) that the union of husband and wife itself is a picture of Christ's relationship with His church." -Phil

This is a fine statement. Well done.


" So the homosexual joke turns out to be utterly inappropriate after all." -Phil (talking of Mark's crudeness)

Mark Driscoll is crude at times. i have shared from his Vintage Jesus before, and hos he has very crude statements in his book. He also has some very good things he wrote.

I just don't get this guy. What's up with being crude Mark?

The Body of Christ needs to hear good sermons, like Phil's. Keep on preaching the truth in love.

Sing-Along Steve said...

Brethren, I think we are all missing the major point of this whole matter. The FACT is that Phil Johnson did an excellent job of presenting a Biblical case for maturity and sound speech. The responses he got from the naysayers have been anything BUT Biblical. For instance:

"Are your ears so tender that you are truly injured by the sound of coarse words?"

WHERE on EARTH did someone who calls themselves a Christan get the idea that he or she should speak to a brother in Christ that way, let alone a pastor and and (I'm guessing here) their elder?

WHY, WHY, WHY are we all so cold-hearted when it comes to being like our precious Savior? WHY do we continually fight with each other and ask such impudent questions as that email writer did? Is there ANY way in which the innuendo and bar-room jesting I have heard from so many "postmoderns" is evidence that we are growing more and more in Christ-likeness?

Church-growth strategies, so-called "contextualization" and postmodern posing be damned! Lift high His ROYAL banner! Royal, by the way, for those who are too infatuated with sex jokes to bother with such an archaic word, means "of or pertaining to royalty". This, as pertains to Jesus, means that He is KING and we are to herald His Gospel and His coming and His judgment with all the dignity and reverence that the King of Kings deserves.

It breaks my heart to hear people defending the kind of talk that Jesus didn't have to die for us to be able to use.

If we were finally given a key to a room full of precious treasures that we never had so much as a glimpse into before, why would anyone but an idiot (by that I mean the truly idiot, the mentally deranged) keep relying on the old resources he had? Would a wise and grateful person not use the new and priceless jewels of the Holy Bible instead of the old junk of the fallen world's streets?

Rant off. To God be all glory.

Susan said...

Tournifreak said: "I have recommended this series to several teens and 20's in my church and all have come back and said how helpful it has been. They say he deals with issues around marriage, singleness and sexuality better than anything they're heard before. No-one else is brave enough to deal with these subjects, they say."

Tournifreak, Josh Harris has an excellent book on sexual sins called Not Even A Hint. He is honest and open about sexual struggles people face but does not cross the line of becoming crass. I can make this comparison because I have read portions of Driscoll's Porn Again Christian. As a woman I find Driscoll's approach disturbing. His descriptions were certainly vivid--too vivid, I'm afraid. One may argue that his intended audience consists of men, but our Lord's command of wholesome talk applies to not just one but both sexes. Yet another may argue that Driscoll's style is such--I would still use the same argument.

(Incidentally, when I visited Mars Hill's website some weeks ago to check it out, Porn Again Christian was displayed in a very prominent place on the home page. When I just revisited the site again just now, it is nowhere to be found. It's working, Phil!!)

Susan said...

And Phil said: "Song of Solomon elevates the expression of marital love by speaking of it in beautiful and poetic terms. This is the exact opposite of what is happening in the church today, where the beauty and dignity of marital intimacy is being dragged through the gutter."

Well said, Phil. Perhaps even some theologians who think more literally of SoS (e.g., RC Sproul Sr.) would be horrified by the thought that SoS can be used to show the legitimacy of certain sexual behaviors (anyone has read the book I mentioned above will know what I mean). Ironically, to do that wouldn't be reading SoS literally at all--quite the contrary.

Susan said...

(Correction: When I said the book is nowhere to be found, I mean I didn't see it on the homepage.)

Susan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan said...

I've come back to read some of the comments--very tired lately, so I still haven't read all of them, but Squirrel is right: Stefan's "red herring" comment on SoS pretty much nailed it.

Also, the reason I started reading Driscoll's book in the first place was because I found out that a dear friend of mine actually now attends a Mars Hill church. It was like an alarm sounding in my head. Having read so much about Driscoll here in PyroLand, but never really read anything by him, I decided to check out the Mars Hills website and see for myself. The first thing that caught my attention was the prominently-placed aforementioned book. Certainly a very controversial title for a book--let alone a Christian book that is supposed to be convicting--so I, Curious, clicked and started to read...
and simply could not finish it for reason stated in my previous comments. (Should have known better than to read a book for Christian men by Driscoll!! But at least I know now, albeit the hard way.)

Brenda said...

Our parents fought to keep sex education out of schools - who would have ever thought we'd have to fight to keep it out of our churches?

My guess is that most people already know "how to" and don't need lessons. What they do need to know is that God has always forbidden sexual immorality. What part of that is so hard to understand?

Matt Gumm said...

Tagging on to what Frank said earlier, Dan Wallace makes what I think is a very convincing argument here that "dung" or its like is the best translation of σκύβαλα. Presumably this is the kind of discussion that the pro-cussing folks are looking for.

But before you get all excited about Paul saying [insert excremental term here], consider that he reserved this strong language for his own good works.

Al Mohler makes this point in one of this radio shows late year entitled Bad Language in the Pulpit? He discusses linguistics, and whether there are bad sounds (letters), vs. bad words. Lots of helpful discussion here.

The point I'd make here is simple. I have yet to hear anyone who advocates for the use of this kind of language use it the way the Bible does. For instance, if I write a blog post on why all my good deeds are "crap," that would be ok, according to Mohler's definition.

Dr. Mohler's exact wording is: "I will say that if the Apostle Paul is our model here, then we can talk about our efforts at self-righteousness in some of the strongest, most scatalogical terms." He goes on to say that the Apostle Paul doesn't use that kind of language "casually, carelessly, or strategically just to shock, or about, for instance, other human beings." That's the difference, if anyone cares after 90± comments.

P.S. Kudos to sem for calling out the spades.

Oh, yeah, one other quick thing.

Tourinfreak: FWIW, you seem to be confusing the pulpit ministry with the counseling or other general ministry. Nowhere is Phil or anyone else saying that these topics shouldn't be discussed. You've asked some fair questions (albeit at times it seems simply to keep Driscoll in the forefront, despite Phil and others trying to deal with the larger issue), but even as you do that, you're doing the same thing my kids do: you don't like like the answer you get, so you ask again.

Case in point: you asked How do you deal with issues of porn, sexuality, marriage, singleness in church? (1 to 1 was suggested before - no way - half our congregation need to hear this stuff - that's why we have preaching, right?)

I'm gonna go out on the limb here and say, "no, that's not why God gave us preaching." I'm pretty sure that's why God gave us the Bible, parents, elders, and godly mentors, just to name a few. Most of the stuff you've mentioned seems to fall squarely on the shoulders of the counseling side of things, not the preaching side. And you've been told this by others.

But you can always keep shopping for answers; maybe there's someone out there who has one you'll like better.

Rick Frueh said...

I still say the earth is round. When the church has to address pulpit language issues, and when the church gets so obsessed with sex that parts of the Bible are twisted/expanded to be a massively specific book on sexual practices, well then we have taken major league steps backward to the detriment of pusuing Christ.

Like attending an automobile driving school and spending an inordinate time discussing how to open the car door, so is Christianity when we must again lay the foundation of repentance from dead works.

In all of this, Pastor Driscoll gets what he seems to desire, attention. If we form fit our faith around our culture we run the risk of having Christianity become one of many accoutrements in a well rounded western community.

In short, not even having enough of a form of godliness against which to paradoxically deny its power.

paulshirley said...

Tournifreak,

I think that you will certainly find Pastor Kreloff's sermons on SoS to be much different from MD's. And for the record I think that is a good thing.
I am glad that you do now have a positive example of how someone can preach through a difficult topic such as this w/o using titillating and crude language. I really encourage you to listen to the series. It was extremely helpful to me and my wife.

Everyday Mommy said...

Dear Phil:

I have not been able to read through all the comments, so this may be repetitious. I am no theologian, so permit me to encourage you in a very simplistic way.

Ignore the goats.

They want to shut you up. They don't want to hear your voice(s), protesting against evil in the public place (Amos 5:10).

They love to sling the ad hominem stone and infer that godly men like the Pyro's are "unloving". Their goal is to shut you up.

Don't let them win, Phil, Dan and Frank. Take up the rod and drive the goats (and the wolves) out of the flock. Or, as William Still said,

“Let goats entertain goats and let them do it in goatland.”

sbrogden said...

Does any of it matter? I mean, the cute puppy dog at the end of the column is so sweet and innocent - God's common grace on sinful man. Let's just hug the puppy.

And rebuke error and boldly stand for Truth.

Press on!

And more puppies, please :-)

Atone said...

They love to sling the ad hominem stone and infer that godly men like the Pyro's are "unloving". Their goal is to shut you up.

EM, that's a bit of an extreme broad brush you've painted here.

Everyday Mommy said...

Atone:

Far from being a broad brush, it is a fine tipped brush acquired from years of seeing goats bleating and kicking when a sheep properly identifies them as a goat.

Don Fields said...

Phil,

Thank you for pointing out Mark's sermon at Destiny Church in Edinburgh. I couldn't believe the frankness and the frivolous tone he used in a very mixed setting. And what is more I couldn't believe the jocularity with which it was received. It was the best and worse example of what you preached about.

And no thank you for pointing it out. In many ways I wished I wouldn't have listened to it.

I speak to 18-35 year-old singles and marrieds every week and I just taught through Song of Solomon. I didn't "see" most of what I "found" there, and if I did, I still wouldn't speak of it in such a way. It was embarrassing to listen to alone. Not because I was learning something new or that I have a sinful or shameful past. It was an embarrassment in thinking about this being talked about in a setting with women and single men in attendance.

BlackCalvinist aka G.R.A.C.E. Preecha said...

Phil,

You said 'pompus ass'.

I'm never reading your blog again and I'm unfacebookfriending you.

*tongue in cheek*

Kerry

Rick Frueh said...

I believe the Scriptures teach that Christ will Himself separate the sheep from the goats. Until then, we must reach who may perceive as goats.

Identifying "goats" is a non exact science that, when practiced, can unconsciously lead to self righteousness. Christ died for a one time goat like me.

Everyday Mommy said...

Rick:

I'm a Kansas girl and have grown up around farms and I can assure you that goats are born goats and sheep are born sheep. A kid does not transform into a sheep, nor does a lamb transform into a goat.

Yes, Christ alone will separate the sheep from the goats, but we are also clearly instructed how to recognize a goat and to avoid goats (2 Timothy 3:5).

Contending for the faith does not make one self-righteous. Thinking that a dead man chose righteousness does.

Rick Frueh said...

I am sure our calling is not a war between sheep and goats. I have been transformed from a goat into a sheep by God's gospel, however I was born a goat. I do not believe anyone is born a sheep.

I pray for more goats to be changed into sheep.

Peace.

Sing-Along Steve said...

Rick:

"Christ died for a one time goat like me."

No, He died for His sheep, and them alone. You were never a goat; you were a lost sheep. Everyone is dead spiritually, sheep as well as goats; the Holy Spirit gives the sheep the ability to hear the Shepherd's voice, not the ability to change from a goat to a sheep.

Dogs return to their vomit, no matter how lap-friendly they are, even over years of domestication. Pigs naturally wallow in filth; they cannot be trained to not be dirty in habits. A pig can be washed, but it cannot be un-pigged.

To those who will doubtless say that I am being harsh or judgmental, I refer you to the One whose Spirit inspired the Book from whence those words came.

May God be glorified in His saints.

Everyday Mommy said...

Rick:

"I pray for more goats to be changed into sheep."

I assure you, no farmer has ever entered his pasture to find a goat transformed into a sheep.

David Rudd said...

sheep/goats

wheat/tares

matthew 13:24-29.

i'm pretty sure it's the shepherd/master's role to do the separating (i believe all parables point to this?)

our role is to preach the gospel.

David Rudd said...

er... tack on vs. 30. that's what i get for going from memory.

Rick Frueh said...

"Know ye not that the unrighteous (goats) shall not inheit the kingdom of God?...and such were some of you, but you are washed..."

Paul says we were once enemies of God, not poor lost sheep. It is semantics. God saves sinners, otherwise known as goats, and transforms them into sheep. You are correct, farmers cannot do that.

BlackCalvinist aka G.R.A.C.E. Preecha said...

Uhmmm.... sheep were not one time goats. As lost sheep, they were enemies of God.

Replace sheep and goat with elect and reprobate and you'll understand it a bit better.

Burrito34 said...

Great post, Phil. It made me more conscious of the need to maintain purity of our thought processes because what we are inside eventually works its way out in our words and actions. It's like Moses and his leprous hand sign (Exodus 4:6-7). What we are, we ultimately do.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

"One intriguing fact stands out in all the criticisms of that message: not a single critic has challenged my interpretation of Titus 2:7-8; Ephesians 4:29; 5:3-4; or the third commandment (Exodus 20:7)."

This was my initial reaction to your first post on this issue. It is sad to see so many people devoted to defending their icon rather than stand on principle and affirm truth. Reminds me of the political arena . . .

Luke said...

I've been deliberating whether or not to post a comment here, but its bothered me so much I feel I need to 'chip in'. Part of my trepidation in commenting is that I'm fairly new to blogging and so feel like the scared kid on this first day of high school - please be gentle in your replies to my comment (if indeed there are any!). Here it goes:

Phil,
Thank you so much for both the talk and the posts. I agree with many that this needed to be said. I always thought we were supposed to be counter cultural, but it seems as if this need to 'meet the culture' only points out whose approval is being looked for - the world's rather than God's. How sad. I do believe that when we were called to be lights in the world, it does not mean the neon lights that adorn sex shops throughout red light districts across the globe. Thank you for for all the good work!

Tournifreak et al.,
I in no way claim to be an expert in any of this, but I felt that I should share the following (even thought the SoS thing is a real side issue).

I have listened to a couple of the SoS talks by MD (with my wife on our honeymoon), so can appreciate where you're coming from. My understanding of your questions is that you are genuinely questioning a)how one can preach on SoS in an honest and comprehensive manner and b)how can one preach on marriage and intimacy. If I have misunderstood your questions (and the others who have replied to you), I apologise - please ignore my reply below and read my comments as side issues.

Let me first say that the sermon series by MD on SoS, like many of his series, is really more a topical series, with the SoS used as a bible base from which to launch his (sometimes more opinion based) sermons. I have no problem with this, but it means that these sermons are really more about the topic than the 'straight text'.

To answer the questions I posed above, I think that if one is looking to preach SoS to a normal, mixed audience, then one needs to write the sermon for said audience. Focusing entirely on sex and the other intimate details of marriage would only really be appropriate to those who are married or engaged and would in fact be quite unhelpful to those who are single or struggle with sexual sin.

If the goal is to teach in detail on marriage and intimacy to a large group via a sermon, maybe the best format would be a seminar for married people?? It is important to remember that this part of marriage is 'private' and much of the practical outworkings of intimacy within a marriage would be specific to, and for discussion between, the husband and wife only. As this is therefore an extremely personal matter, these talks shouldn't be blunt and therefore to some, vulgar (as some find MD's talks).

Also, there are plently of books which give excellent practical advice based on the solid biblical teachings of marriage and intimacy. Two recommended to me and my wife were Married for God and One Flesh. Both were extremely helpful, relevant, appropriate, biblical and practical.

Phew! I hope these comments help, and if they didn't, thank you for your patience. I apologise if they seem a little 'rambly' - its very late at night atm for me!

Thanks all!
Luke

DJP said...

1. Luke - you IDIOT!!!!!

2. Totally kidding on #1

3. But now anything Phil says won't feel so harsh.

G'day!

(c:

Everyday Mommy said...

Luke <---- What he said.

Welcome to blogland :D

cbc said...

I guess I don't listen to the same preachers you guys do, because my pastor is very circumspect on what he says both in and out of the pulpit, thankfully! I am honestly astonished that this would actually be an issue for someone--I mean, duh, of COURSE Christians should use right speech and avoid vulgar, crude language. But since it apparently is an issue, then good on you for addressing it, Phil. Out of curiosity, I started listening to Driscoll's sermon on "the good bits" (I'm married :^)) and was uncomfortable with just the first few minutes--it's more than a bit crude to tell the single people in the congregation that it's too bad they're single because they can't go home and "put into practice" what the Bible says. If anyone said that to me when I was single, I would think he was a jerk. In fact I still think that was a jerky, inappropriate thing to say.

Tournifreak said...

I must admit I thought the comments had been closed for this...but since people are still going, I'll add my FINAL comments...

1) Thanks to Phil for his original thought-provoking message. Sorry if I have gone on about MD rather a lot. Please understand it's the only experience I have of the sort of thing Phil was talking about.

2) I still like Driscoll. I like his forthrightness and particularly his ability to communicate to men from an unchurched background. I do wish he would drop *that* joke though (the Ecclesiastes one), and any others that might alter someone's perception of a scripture in a bad way. I haven't been able to hear his message in Edinburgh (can't find it on their website - has it been pulled??) but if the characterisation given by others was correct, it does sound way OTT. My prayer for MD is that he continues to engage with the unchurched and messed-up, and that he will continue to grow in wisdom in how far to take that engagement without becoming worldly in his speech.

3) I still think there are a lot of people (mostly men) in church who need direct teaching on sex, porn, relationships, manly responsibility. I regard SoS as a good way to teach it. Whatever the level of Christiological content, it surely contains a great deal of wisdom on these issues. For that reason, it's a good launching pad for all sorts of topical teaching (As Luke pointed out). I'm thinking a good place for that is in single-sex teaching groups? Having married-only groups misses all the singles who struggle with sex/relationships stuff. Doing it like MD in a normal service is not how I would do it, but as I pointed out before, there was plenty of warning, and it was clear what the content would be beforehand. He's also in a church with a pretty unusual demographic. I agree with Luke that the material in MD's SoS talks was very broad and was mostly only directly relevant to married or engaged people. Perhaps that does cause a problem for singles generally? Some on here have said it does for them and of course, I accept that. But I wouldn't criticise MD for pastoral decisions he's made - I'm sure he's well aware of the needs/struggles of his congregation, and the pastoral implications of him doing it.

4) I don't see 1-1 counselling, parents, mentors as the only solution, although of course it is a vital part of the armoury. When someone come to me for help about porn addiction (as they did recently), I'm obviously not going to turn them away! But I'm pretty sure he's only the tip of the iceberg. I believe MD's statistics are accurate and that many many guys (and women) in churches have huge problems in these areas.

For those who might have read some of "Porn again Christian" by MD and are shocked that such a thing should exist, can I humbly suggest you might not know what goes on in the minds of some of the guys you know? That book is very frank, but it is a book, and even MD I don't think would cover that stuff in a sermon! And it is firmly rooted in the Bible. His motivation is to help brothers who struggle in these things and can't find help elsewhere.

Many guys didn't have godly parents and the idea of 1-1 is very scary. For many it's just too difficult a subject to go and seek help with. From a practical point of view, tackling those subjects Biblically is easier in a group I would say. And I can't find any direct Biblical backing to say it's OK to talk frankly about this stuff 1-1 but not in say, a single-sex group. I think it really does come down to practicalities and godly wisdom.

5) Thanks to those who have recommended other resources. I have read Josh Harris' books and found them helpful. The problem with books is getting people to read them. I suppose one benefit of group teaching around these issues is that it confronts people with their sinful behaviour and then provides a solution. A book provides a solution, but only to those who recognise the sinful behaviour already and desire to mortify it.

6) I have found the attitude of some people on here rather tiresome. Some have been accusative and confrontational to the point of being abusive. My questions were genuinely real questions, seeking clarification of the implications of Phil's helpful teaching. Some seemed to see Phil's message as "keep filthy language out of the pulpit", and jumped to the conclusion that anyone not saying "well said, brother" was saying, "we like filthy language in the pulpit. More please!". If I have not been clear, and have come across in that way, or I have come across as disrespectful of anyone, then I apologise. It was not my intent.

7) For me, this discussion has also demonstrated the limitations of a blogger meta for useful discussion. It's just not designed for it. It has no easy way to post quotes from others; it's hard to see what people are commenting on quite often. Usenet is a bit better for this sort of thing. But above all, I'm sure that if this discussion were had face-to-face it would have been far more productive and far less confrontational. C'est la vie.

Anyway, that's all I'm going to say on the matter. Thanks to those who have taken the time to clarify and lead my thinking in Godly directions. Blessings on you.

Tim Brown said...

Phil:

Thank you for posting this. I was saved out of pornography and am totally disgusted with the use of porn, etc., in what is called "the church".

Robert Briggs said...

Hopefully at last the blogosphere is dying down on this.

Hope we are still friends Phil after our RBS interaction.

Vagabond said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
terriergal said...

I haven't seen any parodies from you to worry about Phil...

:-)

I agree with driscoll as far as being tough with the wolves and tender with the sheep. However, he seems to equate being tough with the wolves as being profane. I certainly don't mind Luther's penchant to call names to the correct people, as we see it is done in Scripture as well. However that is different than being vulgar in order to WIN some to Christ. yeeks. One thing that STOPPED me from using profanity as a teen was to realize some of my best friends NEVER used it.