The New Atheists keep saying that religious atrocities and bad behaviors directly spring out of the supernatural character of their beliefs.
I think they’re deadly wrong, because there are no more logical connections between the general belief “There is a supernatural creator” and evil actions than between the conviction “There is no supernatural world” and the atrocities committed by Russian communists in the past.
No, I think that the main cause of religious wickedness consists of the evil nature of the deities the believers in question are worshiping.
A recent post from liberal pastor David Hayward illustrates this truth very nicely. It concerns fundamentalist Pastor Mark Driscoll who has reached an impressive track record of abuses ever since he began preaching.
Many people are calling for forgiveness for Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church so that he and the church can get back to preaching the gospel as effectively as it had and get back on the road to success, just like it was before things started unraveling.
Andrew Jones of Tall Skinny Kiwi has written a good summary of what’s transpired up to now.
My question is: “What is the gospel?” Like this cartoon attempts to portray, isn’t the gospel about how we treat people, rather than how effectively we convert them?
Marshal McLuhan wrote years ago that “the medium is the message”.
This means that it’s not just the words you say, but how you say it and the culture it emerges from and the community it creates.
It’s become more than apparent that Driscoll’s and Mars Hill’s gospel is about abuse. It’s not about the emancipation of the human being, but the heavy-handed control of them.
This is not just about a few behavioral issues. The church’s behavior emerges out of its attitudes, beliefs and theology. Driscoll didn’t preach a healthy theology but struggled with some unhealthy behaviors. Rather, the unhealthy behaviors were born out of an unhealthy theology.
Driscoll abused people because this is his idea of how God treats people. Driscoll’s and Mars Hill Church’s god is an abusive god, a god who scorns gays, dismisses women, ridicules differences and bullies anyone who disagree with him. Their god is a god who presses his agenda with complete disregard for those who challenge it and are harmed by it.
No wonder they behave this way! Because their god behaves this way.
So all eyes are on Driscoll and his church this morning. What’s going to happen? Certainly not just a slight adjustment of policy. What is required is a complete overhaul of not just practice, but belief. Not an easy task!
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This was my response.
Thanks for this great series of posts, David!
You truly hit the nail on the head while pointing out that the fundamental question is “What is the Gospel”?
For passionate Calvinist Mark Driscoll, the “Gospel” can be summed up through the following points:
2) God led the two first human beings to eat the wrong apple. As a consequence, He cursed their billions of descendants with a sinful nature making wicked deeds inevitable
3) Consequently every human being “deserves” an eternal stay in God’s torture chamber.
4) God sovereignly determines IN ADVANCE those who will suffer forever and those who will be saved from this unending Ausschwitz .
I think it is undeniable that the god worshiped by consistent Calvinists is a heinous fiend (if you can pardon me this terrible understatement).
Calvinists keep saying that atheists aren’t able to live consistently with their assumptions whereas THEY are the ones facing tremendous cognitive dissonances.
They profess that God, the most perfect Being, is actually far worse than the most odious human criminal having ever lived.
If there really is such a thing as a “doctrine of demons”, I can’t think of a better candidate than Calvinism.
What infuriates me the most is that people like Mark Driscoll and John Piper passionately and joyously defend the (alleged) reality of never-ending torments for billions of people having been PREDETERMINED by God to act badly.
For me, this is similar to Germans in the Third Reich joyfully supporting the extermination policy of their Fueher.
The Gospel is a Good New for everyone and social justice is astronomically more important (in volume) that homosexuality.
For Calvinists, the Gospel is the most terrifying, despairing and absurd horror movie one can envision.
The misbehavior of Mark Driscoll is only the tip of a gigantic iceberg full of a loathsome and reeking theology.
If your most fundamental beliefs lead you to call the most horrendous evil “praiseworthy”, you’re bound to either bear incredible cognitive dissonance or act accordingly.
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