Today The Baptist Press ran an article (be warned, if you read the article, the language is explicit) by Don Hinkle about The Bott Radio Program’s decision to interrupt one of its programs mid-show out of concern that the featured guest, Pastor Mark Driscoll, might respond with inappropriate or vulgar comments on the syndicated show “Family Life” hosted by Dennis Rainey. The reason for the concern was the topic: sex. For those of you unfamiliar with Driscoll, he was labeled as the “cussing pastor” in Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz. This decision is newsworthy because the national radio program has an audience of over 40 million people in 10 states. Bott Network founder Dick Bott made the unilateral decision to pull the interview mid-show as well as a scheduled second interview out of concerns “of what he saw as Driscoll’s penchant for using vulgarity in his sermons, especially his questionable interpretation of the Song of Solomon in a Nov. 18, 2007, sermon preached in Edinburgh, Scotland, and subsequently in a multi-part series entitled “The Peasant Princess.”

This is where the “news” in Mr. Hinkle’s article ends and the propaganda begins. The rest of the article is nothing more than a commentary full of sound-bytes and uncontextualized quotes, clearly intended to portray Pastor Driscoll in as negative a light as possible. My concern with the article is that while it is full of quotes from Driscoll, they are dangerously close to slander simply because they are used without balance or fair-minded context.

I would be among the first to say that Driscoll has been known to speak first and think later, and at times, Driscoll has said things that were sinful (haven’t we all). But, in fairness to Driscoll, he has also often been quick to own up to his mistakes and publicly repent when he has crossed the line. Interestingly, Mr. Hinkle never mentions this in his article.  Incidentally, the article reveals how easy it is to cast stones, particularly when you have a clear agenda.

Driscoll’s comments about sex and sexuality, based on his interpretation of Song of Solomon, are shocking. They may even cross the line, but a handful of isolated sermons are not a fair representation of Driscoll’s ministry and a good, objective journalist owes his audience the whole story. The reality is that Driscoll is attempting to be both faithful to Scripture and relevant to culture in regards to applying the wholistic impact of the Gospel in all of life, including an aspect of life that many in the evangelical church refuse to talk about openly. Has he missed the mark in Song of Solomon? Perhaps. Is his language crude, unhelpful, and perhaps vulgar (read the article for yourself)? I think at times he is all of these things when talking about sex and sexuality. But I am not convinced that this enough to discredit Driscoll’s ministry, as Hinkle is attempting to do. If Driscoll is guilty of anything it is over-contextualizing his interpretation of Song of Solomon, importing erotic cultural language and norms into Song of Solomon (eisegesis) in a way that makes more of the sensual nature of the book than it demands. While this may be poor biblical interpretation, I am not convinced that Driscoll is attempting to be blatantly sinful.

If you are going to name drop John MacArthur (I was encouraged by the way that MacArthur has pursued Driscoll) as one who has publicly criticized Driscoll’s interpretation of the book, then perhaps it would also be ideal to speak to godly men who have come alongside Driscoll for the sake of his sanctification, men like John Piper, CJ Mahaney, D.A. Carson and others, who I have to believe have also probably talked to Driscoll about his interpretation of Song of Solomon. And why not speak to Driscoll himself before publishing such a scathing rebuke in print for the world to see? We have no indication that Mr. Hinkle or The Baptist Press made any attempt to speak to Driscoll before running this story, and if they did, it would have been prudent to put that attempt at contact in print.

Mr. Hinkle’s article is as sensational as a headlining article in the National Enquirer about Jon and Kate Gosselin. I think it is fair to expect more from a Christian publication. It only seems appropriate that an article about the appropriate use of language from a Christian perspective would make sure those scales are balanced in your criticism.

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