Why is Mark Driscoll so Down on Noah?

Ron Cantor —  April 13, 2014 —  Comments

Many preachers have come down on the ‘Noah’ portrayed in the new Hollywood movie, but one pastor has taken aim at the real Noah!

Mark Driscoll is hands down one of my favorite preachers. His sense of humor helps my ADHD brain stay focused and his passion for truth is contagious. However, Driscoll is a Calvinist—he believes that God chooses who gets saved and who doesn’t, for no particular reason. So despite my affinity for him, every now and then, I have to disagree with Partor Mark.

You see, Calvinism teaches “The effect of the fall upon man is that sin has extended to every part of his personality — his thinking, his emotions, and his will.” (http://www.reformed.org/calvinism/). Even the act of coming to Yeshua is one hundred percent God-initiated. And your response to His offer also has nothing to do with your will. Calvin himself said, “The will is so utterly vitiated and corrupted in every part as to produce nothing but evil.”

These doctrines are called:

  1. Total Depravity (Because of man’s utter-sinfulness through Adam, man cannot on his own chose by free will to seek God. Other take it further and teach at it appears Driscoll does, that unsaved man is incapable of doing good. )
  2. Irresistible Grace (Those who are called to be saved, will eventually respond to the Gospel [whether they want to or not].)
  3. Unconditional Election (Before He created the world, God chose who would be saved and who would suffer eternal damnation.)

These are three of the five major points in Calvinism. Personally, I think the idea that God has predestined some to receive the Gospel and others to suffer hell’s damnation not only makes God look kind of mean—but makes a mockery of evangelism. Why even preach the Gospel if it is already decided?

But this is what Driscoll believes and the idea that we are completely depraved, is why Driscoll can’t give Noah a break. He recently preached a sermon and wrote a blog that was pretty tough on our father Noah. “Everyone is only bad, all the time—including Noah,” Driscoll barked.

This is a problem, as God not only refers to Noah as righteous, but to Abraham as well. David and Solomon both refer to those who are blameless and do righteously in Psalms and Proverbs. God sent an angel to the not-yet-saved Cornelius because of his good works! Moses, despite being “only bad, all the time,” was called the most humble man in all earth (Numbers 12:3).

What does the Bible say about Noah?

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. (Gen. 6:9)

I can assure you that the original Hebrew text says exactly this—he was a righteous man, ish tsadik, who was blameless, tamim (literally unblemished). But, despite what the Bible says about Noah, it does not fit the Calvinist theology of Driscoll, and therefore, he must reason, It can’t mean what it says; it must mean something else.

Doctrine Driven Theology or Theology Driven Doctrine?

As a young student in Bible school Dr. Michael Brown used to say regularly, “Make your theology fit the Word, don’t make the Word fit your theology.” This appears to be a case of making the word fit ones theology.

In his blog Driscoll says:

Noah did not begin as a righteous man, but rather he began as a sinner, not unlike everyone else on the earth in his day. The only difference between Noah and the other sinners who died in the flood of judgment was that God gave grace to Noah.

He arrives at this conclusion from Genesis 6:8, where it states that Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. He misinterprets the word chen as grace (we will get to that in a minute). In other words, Noah was just as wicked as everyone else—but, only by sovereign election (God choosing him)—not based  on anything Noah had done—Noah was saved. As far as Driscoll is concerned, it  could have been the sodomite down the road from Noah, or the idol worshipper who owned the minimart—could have been anyone.

No! God chose Noah because he was a God-seeker. This does not mean that Noah was perfect. Being righteous doesn’t necessarily mean you are sinless—it can mean your heart is turned towards God in humility, like Moses, despite your sin.

Driscoll says:

Beautifully, the word “favor” is the same Hebrew word for grace that appears here for the first time in the Bible. It’s the same word that is echoed repeatedly by Paul and other authors throughout the New Testament as they proclaim that salvation is by grace through faith alone.

This is not correct. In Biblical Hebrew, the word chen means favor, not grace. Chesed is Hebrew for grace. We often speak of grace as being unmerited favor. So favor would clearly be something God extends to someone because of His approval—as opposed to random favor. And, we know from the text that Noah “Walked faithfully with God.”

Driscoll deals with verse 9 by saying:

Indeed, Noah was a blameless and righteous man who, like Enoch, “walked with God.” (Gen. 5:24) But Noah was only this sort of man because God saved him by grace and empowered him to live a new life of obedience to God by that same grace.

However, one can only be saved and empowered by the death and resurrection of Yeshua. If we could have found that type of grace outside of Yeshua, then Messiah died in vain. The grace we receive is only because Yeshua took our punishment. Furthermore, it is not true to the text. The Bible says that Noah was “blameless among the people of his time.” It does not speak of some conversion.

We can see many cases where unsaved people seek after God.

  • Rehab helps the spies (Joshua 2)
  • David slays Goliath (1 Sam. 17)
  • Daniel prays despite the threat of death (Daniel 6)
  • The poor widow gives an offering that impresses Yeshua (Luke 21)
  • Zacheus paying back those he cheated (Luke 19)
  • The faith of the Centurion causes Yeshua to marvel (Matt. 8)

In the last case, why did Yeshua marvel over his faith, if it was only a result of God overpowering his free will or, as many Calvinists teach, rooted in some selfish motive?

Getting back to Cornelius, his story proves that God has given us free will—to choose good or evil. Based on Cornelius’ actions, God chose him to be the first Gentile to hear the Good News.

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearinghe gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.

The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.” (Acts 10:1-4)

The passage flies in the face of the Total Depravity theory. Even in our unregenerate state, we are capable of doing God deeds in faith towards God.

To be clear, we are all sinners in need of a Savior, but that doesn’t mean we are incapable of desiring God or choosing God–or rejecting God. Why else were the ancient Israelites commanded, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” (Jos. 25:15) if the choice has been made for us?  Noah deserves our honor and respect. Based on the way he lived in a wicked world, God chose him to be the sole survivor with his family. He is our father.

 

 

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Comments

  1. TL says:

    Hello Mr. Cantor,
    I’ve really enjoyed many of your posts. Given your affinity for mark Driscoll, I’m curious about your views on the recent disintegration of Mars Hill (http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2014/october/goodbye-mars-hill-multisite-church-dissolve-mark-driscoll.html?paging=off)
    Mark Driscoll’s resignation and confessions from former elders that the core leadership of Mars Hill sinned against elders and laity alike. (https://www.evernote.com/shard/s296/sh/08f9a50a-34eb-4853-95df-df5dd9c6eb8d/8ff0270968e1deed574553096bc874f1)
    (http://repentantpastor.com/confessions/letter-confession-bent-meyer-paul-petry/)

    I believe there has been a great deal of controversy around this issue and I’d love to know your take on it.