An Abusive Relationship With G-d

11 Oct

This weekend Mark Driscoll, pastor of the NW mega-church Mars Hill, came right out and said exactly what he thinks that g-d thinks about you…”G-d hates you“.  Watch here (quote starts @ 4:25)…

Those who know me might be surprised by this, but I have a slight problem with that.  It isn’t just that I find his approach rough or his words lacking in tact, even though I certainly do.  My criticism goes beyond the shocking phrases he spews with such malice in this video.  If you have an hour, man he loves to hear himself talk, you can watch the full sermon here.

In the full sermon, Mark goes to great lengths to explain to us how evil we are.  He thinks it is incredibly important that we all realize just how sh*tty we really are and how much his g-d righteously despises everything about us.  We must come to the realization that g-d’s wrath is boiling over and his “justice” eagerly calls out for our blood.  Mark thinks saying all that is okay because it highlights just how great g-d’s “love” is when he finds a way to redirect his wrath onto a substitutionary scapegoat.  The only way we could possibly understand the love of g-d is if it comes in contrast to wrath-filled hatred and the threat of eternal torture performed by our beloved.

Forgive me for being as blunt as Driscoll usually is, but Mark’s gospel is bullsh*t.  I usually wouldn’t be so forceful in this venue, but this kind of theology is severely psychologically and spiritually dangerous.  His message, given with authority to an audience of over 10K, paints g-d with the following characteristics:

  • Jealous & Possessive
  • Controlling
  • Sets Unattainable Standards
  • Manipulative
  • Prone to Mood Swings
  • Conflicting Actions and Words – Like saying he loves the world then eternally tortures most of it
  • Punishes For Not Meeting Unreasonable Expectations
  • Disrespectful – devalues who you are
  • Historically Violent

The real problem here is that these are the warning signs psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors have identified of abusive relationships.  The analogy of a husband and wife are often used by Christians to symbolize our relationship with g-d.   If Mark Driscoll’s g-d is like our husband, then we are the victims of domestic abuse.  His g-d tells us that we are worthless according to his standards.  We weren’t able to live up to the rules that he made for us, as a result his anger is boiling over. Every time we fail to reach perfection seething words escape through our holy spouse’s clenched teeth promising, “One of these days…one of these days my wrath will reign down on you with unrelenting fury.”

Maybe one day we might work up the courage to respond to such threats by saying, “Remember when I did that thing you asked me to do yesterday, did that not mean anything to you?”.  He, of course, would respond with an open hand raised and impatience in his tone, “Unless you do everything perfectly, whatever good you think you do is complete and utter garbage!”.

After such an interaction we might cower before him and ask “I really do try to be a good person.  You wouldn’t really hurt me just because I fail sometimes, would y…”.  A booming growl cuts off our words, “I AM THE DESTROYER OF SODOM, OF GOMORRAH, OF UZZAH, OF ANANIAS AND SAPPHIRA, OF THE WORLD IN THE FLOOD! DO YOU THINK FOR A MOMENT I WOULD TREAT YOU DIFFERENTLY?”  His voice lowers a few decibels as he continues, “I’ll tell you what, because I am such a merciful and generous g-d I might spare you from my righteous punishment…I could torture and kill somebody who is innocent instead.  You should feel like crap, you made me do it.  You made me torture Jesus, you made me kill him…his blood is on your hands. Live with that guilt for the rest of your existence. Now get down on your knees!  Tell me how horrible and sinful you are.  Acknowledge before me and everybody else that you are nothing without me…a complete waste of human existence.  Say that you deserve my unending torment as retribution for your inability to be perfect, then beg for forgiveness.  Vow to change your disgusting ways.  Admit that it was all your fault that a righteous man died.  SAY IT OR BURN!”

As his voice crescendos, we find ourselves instinctively whimpering the confessions we were instructed to say. As we do, he continues, “Good…now realize what has happened here.  I must love you incredibly to even accept trash like you into my presence.  I ferociously despise you, but my love is greater than my hate…which is saying a lot.  Can you see that?”

“Yes sir” we murmur without making eye contact.

“Very well.  Then perhaps I might be able to do something useful with you.  Go and tell others that they too are worthless sinners.  My wrath burns against them as well, but perhaps they might be able to work out a deal like I graciously extended to you…because if I can forgive and love a P.O.S. like you surely I can do it for anybody.”

The last dig hurt.  For a moment we think to ourselves, “maybe we could just leave, find somebody who didn’t make such threats, find somebody who didn’t set unreasonable expectations, who loved us for us and not despite of us”  As quickly as the thought occurred, fear pulls it back.  If we run he will catch us and we will surely be punished.  If there is one thing we know about g-d, he will follow through with his violent threats…Mark Driscoll told us he would.



Posted by on October 11, 2011 in Bad Theology, Christianity, Hate, Love, Theology, Wrath


9 responses to “An Abusive Relationship With G-d

  1. Monique Thiesen Sawyer

    October 11, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    Wow. You couldn’t have put my anguish produced by my upbringing in the fundamental church into more clear words. That sums it up. Why I was so fearful of God and other Christians, and why it has taken me so long to discover a God of true love.

  2. jimwangerin

    October 12, 2011 at 5:46 am

    I think a lot of the pain I experienced from this kind of theology really came out as I wrote this post. It is comforting to hear that others have been through the same kind of experience and found love on the other side. Thanks for the comment Monique.

  3. karlsauter

    October 12, 2011 at 7:15 am

    Hi Jim, I just wanted to remind you that truth is not about what you think truth is. Truth is what God has spoken. And we have what God has spoken recorded in the Bible. I really regret the pain you experienced from this theology, and I can percieve it from your description of this god. That description you gave is not who the God of the bible is, or who we as reformed christians preach. I know I can’t reach God’s standard, and I know that God is just in punishing evil doers. I am one who does evil things, such as lying, desiring women that don’t belong to me, and failing to love those closest around me.
    I think you identify yourself with these sins, and they keep us apart from God. But God has loved us in a way that even when we were dead in our trespasses (Eph 2:1) and separate from Christ (Eph 2:12), he gave us live and brought us near (Eph 2:5 and Eph 2:13).
    I don’t think the hate Driscoll talks about is a hate as we humans feel in our sinful nature, but maybe one which a parent might feel against someone who violates his daughter. Can you imagine this picture? Wouldn’t that be just feeling? But how great the love of this father, who forgives this man pouring his wrath on Himself, on the man-God, Jesus.
    This is the God of the bible. Not the one we create ourselves. When you meet someone, you might have a picture of who they are, but people are not who we think they are, our picture is usually wrong. So is God, God is who he is, who he says he is. Not what we think or how we create him in our minds. And the bible paints a great picture of who he is, with his wrath, and with his love.

    Thanks for reading, may God bless you,

  4. jimwangerin

    October 13, 2011 at 3:28 am

    Thanks for your perspective Karl. I appreciate you responding from the reformed tradition.

    First let me say that my post was presented using hyperbole as a vehicle to express my frustration with Driscoll’s message. I realize that it is not an accurate, academic, or even fair representation of reformed theology…I recognize it is far more nuanced than what I presented.

    Truth is a funny thing…everybody thinks they have it. Ironically, the evidence points to none of us having it, even if we are studious in reading our bibles. Many brands of theology think they have figured out the correct interpretations of scripture while simultaneously denying that their humanity was a part of the interpretation. Anybody who claims they believe what the bible says and that’s it falls prey to this spiritual blindspot. Consider for a moment…

    Aside from the uncertainty and unreliability of human interpretations of scripture, I don’t find the doctrine of inerrancy or divine authorship of the bible to be true on a presuppositional level. That’s a deep topic and might be deserving of its own conversation, but I mention it simply to point out that an appeal to that doctrine wouldn’t really work to change my mind.

    You say that you cannot attain G-d’s standard then immediately state G-d is just in punishing evil doers and mention some things that you struggle with in your humanity. I assume you are moving from one into another because you believe you are an “evil doer” and deserve to be punished. If I’m understanding you correctly the logic seems to be as follows.

    1. God created an impossible standard
    2. God created a penalty of eternal conscious torment for not meeting said standard
    3. We are born with an inherent inability to live up to this impossible standard
    4. Because of #3 we will always end up at #2.

    If that is true, the game is rigged. Life would be an inescapable trap. Humanity would be setup for failure from the beginning. How then could g-d blame the created for falling into this trap? We would simply be doing what we were designed to do. The wrath of G-d would be completely unjustifiable. Given this there are only 2 possibilities. Either g-d created an inherently unjust system or the theology is, at least in part, false.

  5. Brian Deyo

    October 13, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Jealous & Possessive – Deut. 6:15
    Controlling – Sovereign
    Sets Unattainable Standards – Holy
    Manipulative – Omnipotent
    Prone to Mood Swings – huh?
    Conflicting Actions and Words – Like saying he loves the world then eternally tortures most of it – MIght want to read what he actually says
    Punishes For Not Meeting Unreasonable Expectations – See: Holy (there are no unreasonable expectations when you are God)
    Disrespectful – devalues who you are – Really? He is God, it is by definition impossible for God to disrespect anyone because he is Holy, all powerful and Sovereign. That is part of being God.
    Historically Violent – Can’t argue with this, justice is part of His holy nature.

    You missed a major one though – He is gracious.

  6. Karl

    October 13, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    Loved your answer Brian.
    He is gracious, he is loving, he is patient, he is good… but not without justice, wrath, holiness and sovereignity.

    Jim, if you don’t believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, then which parts do you select to believe in? Think about it. The Bible is God’s truth, and we can understand it. His Spirit gives us light, without Him we wouldn’t be able to understand God’s message, but without Him we wouldn’t even be able to repent.
    If God’s wrath is not on us because of our sinfulnes, why did Jesus have to come to die for us so we could be saved?

    In His grace,

    • jimwangerin

      October 13, 2011 at 8:20 pm

      I apply the historical, textual criticism method to scripture and acknowledge the reality that it was written by human hands. These human authors of the bible did presented their hope and faith in G-d…the fact that they did so, though it may be helpful in the development of my faith, does not mandate my unquestioned allegiance to all of their views. It would not even be possible to lend my allegiance to said views as a collective because so many of the authors conflicted drastically with one another. Many conservatives deny this and jump through hoops to try and make all the square pegs fit into the round holes…but that doesn’t work for me. The answer that requires the least manipulation is usually the more correct one.
      You asked me to think about it (the doctrine of inerrancy), trust me I have. I used to believe in inerrancy, after actually researching it I found my belief to be based on little more than blind obedience to man made doctrines. I believed it because it was easy, it required little effort to seek G-d if all the answers were consolidated in one bound box. More so it was a massive weapon to use against those who disagreed with me. If it was all inerrant, I didn’t have to prove my point was coherent, demonstrably moral or even beneficial in reality, just that a verse existed somewhere to back my doctrine up…like one that said that jealousy was a holy trait. Since you requested my intellectual consideration of it, I would ask you to actually think about the doctrine as well. Where and when did that doctrine originate? Why did it originate? Who actually penned the books we read…not who we say wrote them, who historically actually wrote them? Who canonized them and when? Who was the first to call…say Revelation, the inerrant Word of G-d…who in our faith traditions said it was not? The answers all point to human authorship. The doctrine, in my opinion, takes a man made object and pushes onto it the qualities and characteristics of a deity. In effect, many have made a fourth place in the G-d-head for the bible or a modern day golden calf. Calling the bible the Word of G-d seems to be idolatry…and according to John 1:1, unbiblical.
      I appreciate that you guys have a certain form of faith that works for you. It doesn’t work for me, and really actually causes me a lot of heartache and produced bad fruit in my life when I did believe it. This piece was an expression of that. Today, my faith is built on (but not unilaterally controlled by) the the hopes of those who came before me (including those voices in the bible), the reality I experience and find demonstrated in the world, a fruitful application of love, my relationships with friends and family, and my personal hopes…that’s how I decide what to believe and what to leave behind. I don’t need others to believe what I believe, nor expect my faith to match exactly anybody else’s.

      I’ll be posting on some alternate interpretations on the cross soon to answer your other question regarding the purpose of Jesus’ death.

      Thanks for the continued conversation Karl.

  7. Karl

    October 13, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    thank you for your reply. I do hope God’s grace is with you. Jesus is the only way to heaven. It would be sad if at the end, some who think they believe would end up in eternal damnation. May God bless you and show you His way always.



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