Sunday, August 25, 2013

Driscoll Jumps the Shark on the ESV (part 1)

Mark Driscoll occasionally has some good things to say, I believe. But in general, I think of him as someone whose overall effect on American Christianity is more negative than positive.  Today, however, I would like to talk about him being the occasional idiot.

Before well meaning Wesleyans read his recent, almost "ESV only" rant, I want to make my position clear. You see, when some well-meaning Wesleyan takes up his ideas, I'll be very civil in my disagreement.  But since I don't know Mark Driscoll and it isn't an issue in my circles--and I want to keep it from being one--I feel quite free to mock his nonsense with all the gift of satire you know me to possess.

Now don't get me wrong.  The ESV is a pretty good translation for the most part, I think.  It is not a Wesleyan-preferred translation, because of Driscoll's #6 (complementarian). But in most places it is a very good formal equivalence translation.  I like formal equivalence translations myself, not because they are the best translations but because I personally like my translation to be as close a window into the original languages as possible. In other words, I use them to slack off reading the Greek and Hebrew itself.

In any case, here are Driscoll's 7 reasons why Mars Hill uses the ESV.  P.S. I kept thinking of "KJV only" people as I read this.  Of course he has the same spirit as those people.  He's just a twenty-first century version.  I think of these sort of people as conservative in their ignorance.  They try to hold on to as much of the ignorance of the past as possible, while only becoming just as much more enlightened as reality forces them to. The next generation of them will mock Driscoll, but maintain the same attitude in relation to whatever the issue is then in the future.

1. ESV holds that the Bible is the literal words, not just thoughts of God.
I had a talk with a former KJV only person a couple weeks ago.  Funny, he brought up these sorts of verses. I pointed out Galatians 5:14 where Paul says the Law is fulfilled in one word--"Love your neighbor as yourself." A word, in this context, is an entire thought, as we would expect in an oral, non-literate culture (rather than a literary one).

There is an inevitable circularity to arguments like these from people like Driscoll and Piper. This verse means what words mean in my twentieth century vocabulary so that I can tell you what they mean today. But these weren't words written in twentieth century English. Their meanings come from what words meant in the ancient Hebrew and Greek used at the time and place when they were written down, informed by their socio-cultural context (such as the fact that it was an oral culture). This is why NT Wright was able to give John Piper a thorough spanking on justification some time back. Piper insists on defining Paul using Calvin's sixteenth century definitions to words instead of those the Jews were actually using two thousand years ago.

Everything we know about the way both the biblical authors and the copyists of biblical texts operated suggest that it was the spirit of the text that they were interested in. Listen to Matthew's paraphrase of who knows what verse in Matthew 2:23.  The words of the prophets, plural, somehow suggest that Jesus will be born in Nazareth?  Nazareth didn't exist at the time.  The sentence structure is a little like Judges 13:7, but that's talking about a Nazirite, something completely different. A word similar to Nazareth is used in Isaiah 11:1, but read that verse and see if Matthew 2:23 comes across as paying close attention to the word-for-word like Driscoll is talking about.

In short, Driscoll has NO IDEA what he is talking about.  An actual examination of the way the NT interprets the OT undermines his claim here so seriously that he runs the risk of causing a faith crisis in the lives of any in his congregation who ever go on to do serious study of the Bible. As is typical, he makes his points by his modern definitions of the Bible's words, but he does not look at what the Bible actually does with those words, which is where their real meaning is revealed.

More to the point, if the wording is that important, he'd better stop using an English translation altogether. He should go like the Muslims and only read the Quran in Arabic. If the individual words are that important, then ANY English translation mucks it up.

And why isn't he arguing for the text of the King James then?  If the word-for-word is that important to God, why did God allow Christians to use the "wrong" text for fifteen hundred years?  The ESV is based on the older manuscripts, not the majority of manuscripts.  The ESV implicitly does not assume that God preserved the exact text of the Bible in the worship of believers for over a 1000 years.

I'll tell you why. It's because that's not the social group in which Driscoll is located or its issues.  In his inherited tradition, the KJV thing isn't an issue, but complementarianism is. He supports the ESV ultimately because of the politics of the ESV's creation.  All the rest is smoke and mirrors, arguments invented after the fact to maintain as conservative an ignorance as possible.

More to come tomorrow...

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