Yesterday, Mark Drisoll, the pastor who describes himself as, “a nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody” (The Washington Post), posted a blog called, “Westboro Baptist Church, This False Prophet and His Blind Lemmings Welcome You to Our Whore House for God’s Grace and Free Donuts.” In this blog, he says of Westboro Baptist Church,
Doctrinally, they are extreme five-point Calvinists, or what I like to call Crazy Calvinists. They basically believe the underlying message of the Bible is one of God’s hatred and wrath against humankind, and that the Bible is properly interpreted through that filter. Therefore, they believe all mentions of God’s love in the Bible are in reference to God’s Christian elect and not applicable in any way to others outside God’s elect—pretty much a cosmic game of Duck, Duck, Damned.
I’m a fan of God’s grace, as well as free donuts, and I, too, loath the idea of “Duck, Duck, Damned.” I recognize that Mark Driscoll is very passionate about God and truth and righteousness. His concern with distancing his ministry from the Westboro Baptist Church philosophy and practices is understandable. I really like it that he uses blunt language, such as calling the gathering of MarsHillians a “whorehouse” implying that we are all equally in need of God’s grace and that he focuses on this grace (with a side of donuts) in contrast to the message of hate the tiny Westboro Baptist Church so boisterously proclaims. However, if one takes a close look at the theology of Westboro Baptist Church and the theology of Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church, one will discover that Driscoll’s disgust for Westboro, who he calls “More of a dysfunctional family of religious lawyers than a church” appears to be a classic case of psychological projection.
This idea that psychological projection is taking place is not simply a case of me using personal judgment against the motives of Driscoll and his flock, it is evidenced in Driscoll’s own words, as I will demonstrate shortly. Although I could go into great detail about how deep the layers of avoidance can go (perhaps I’ll do a blog series later), this blog focuses on one particular idea – that Westboro openly displays the very same demons that live in the Mars Hill closets. Of course, Driscoll would disagree with this idea and use one particular so-called difference in theology as his defense, that is, the “L” in Calvinism’s TULIP, an acronym used to describe the five basic tenets of Calvinism.
The Calvinism of Westboro is the classic five point TULIP, and the Calvinism of Mars Hill is a modified version of this. The point where Driscoll would claim they differ is limited atonement. The Mars Hill website’s statement of faith, “What We Believe” doesn’t expound on the matter to which I refer, but recommends, “you can reference the Gospel Coalition Confessional Statement for further detail of our beliefs.” There, readers can see how Westboro and Mars Hill are not so theologically different after all. Instead of elaborating on this difference in my own words, I’ll let Driscoll do it for me by referring you to his sermon notes on “unlimited limited atonement” (no, that isn’t a typo, he seriously believes in unlimited yet limited atonement, what I see as a futile exercise in cognitive dissonance). In this document, Driscoll says,
Simply, by dying for everyone, Jesus purchased everyone as His possession and He then applies His forgiveness to the elect by grace and applies His wrath to the non-elect. Objectively, Jesus’ death was sufficient to save anyone, and subjectively, only efficient to save those who repent of their sin and trust in Him.
Driscoll’s theology (like his free donuts) has a hole in the middle. Some people see that hole and attempt to figure out why it is there. Driscoll’s response to this criticism is to offer additional reading material along with a few insults, which I believe is evidence of that psychological projection I referred to earlier. Driscoll considers anyone who would disagree with his unlimited yet limited take on atonement, “…young, nitpicking, theologically geeky, Calvinist crazy-makers who are like a rock in my shoe…”
The TULIP of Calvinism was modified, not because it is inaccurate, but because it is inadequate. People fail to recognize that atonement is only limited in this age. The real sticky subject here is really not the limited or unlimited atonement, it is the negative implications on God’s character that result from these ideas. If atonement is always limited, this means Jesus didn’t die for everyone, only some, and that all those for whom He did not die were cursed to eternal torment in Hell before they were even born. God created them knowing full well there was absolutely no hope for them. This makes God look very, very evil for creating them in the first place. If atonement is ultimately unlimited, this means that Jesus actually did die for everyone, and that His sinless life, death, and resurrection was sufficient to save everyone. Since the religious traditions of men dictate that not everyone will be saved and that we must do what Driscoll refers to as “your job”, that is, repent and believe, this view is not accepted by modified Calvinists. The biblical doctrine of unlimited atonement must be somehow limited to account for all those who supposedly burn in Hell for eternity. However, if we understand that atonement is ultimately unlimited and that the reason it appears to be limited is that not everyone repents and believes in this age, then there is no need to perform theological gymnastics. Those who God has appointed, enabled, and motivated to repent and believe in this age do so, not because they performed their job, but because God in His Sovereignty has made it so. This does not negate the work of Christ for all those who don’t – it postpones the results of His perfect work until the appointed time.
1 Timothy 2:3-6 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
Driscoll avoids the inclusive view altogether, and here’s how – he lumps any and all people who call themselves universalists together with Pelagians and states (inaccurately), “Universalism contradicts the clear teachings of scripture on human sinfulness…” and “the heresy of universalism [is] we are all sinless in Adam.” I have no idea where Driscoll gets his information. That certainly is not what I believe. He then dismisses the inclusive view altogether, as if he actually addressed the idea in the first place and then found it inaccurate. He says, “This leaves three remaining options for Christians regarding the question of whom Jesus died for.” Oh really? Is Driscoll saying that those who take the above named passage to mean what it says it means are not to be included in the group defined by Driscoll as “Christians”? And he calls Westboro religious lawyers… Anyway, I believe that I have explored this idea enough to return to the topic at hand, the difference between Westboro and Mars Hill.
Westboro puts its theology on large picket signs and strategically places its people in the most public way possible, while Mars Hill contains its hate within the church walls. For example, the typical Westboro messages are “God hates you” and “God hates fags” and the like. Here is what Driscoll teaches to his flock and anyone else who shows up on a Sunday,
God hates you… God can’t even look at us because he is so disgusted… You have been told that God is loving, gracious, merciful, kind, compassionate, wonderful, and good… That is a lie… God looks down and says “I hate you, you are my enemy, and I will crush you.”
Granted, that is not all Driscoll teaches; he gives the typical “offer” for people to do their “job” along with it. And as long as people comply, then everything he just said about God is no longer true. But for those who do not comply, the Westboro-type condemnation still sticks and will stick for eternity unless you do something about it. To the person who subscribes to Driscoll’s theology, Jesus perfect life, death, and resurrection are “only efficient to save” some; in an “objective” sense God loves you, but in a “subjective” sense He hates you. Mars Hill may not create picket signs and show up at funerals shouting their condemnation, but it exists in their minds by implication. Considering this, let’s remember God declared He “does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” God sees the heart of the average sign-toting Westboroan and the average Mars Hillian and sees the same doctrine there – “God hates you.”