Mark Driscoll – Song of Solomon

Mark Driscoll preached a sermon, entitled ‘Sex, a Study of the Good Bits from Song of Solomon’ in two Scottish churches in 2007. Below is an abstract from the introduction to Driscoll’s sermon in a church in Edinburgh—he offered the congregation a choice of three sermons, and asked them to choose.

Introduction to the Scottish Sermon

‘I’ll tell you what I’m going to go ahead and do. I’m going to give you three options. I’ve prepared three sermons. You get to choose what I talk about. Okay. The three options are these: The first is we can go through God’s heart for your city and God’s future plan in the upcoming season for your church from Jeremiah 29, which is what the first service chose. Secondly, I can talk about Jesus as God, give you ten reasons why as Christians we believe and know that Jesus Christ is the only God. Or third, I can talk about sexuality and cover the most exciting parts of the book of the Song of Solomon. Okay. So those are your three options. Your dear pastor is a great man, and I love him and appreciate him, and depending upon what you choose, don’t blame him. So everyone gets to vote, and then I’ll teach on whatever it is you want. So those of you who would like Jeremiah 29 and God’s plan for your city, raise your hand. Okay, both of you are really excited about that. [Laughter from audience] Ten reasons on Jesus Christ being God? Okay, many of you. Alright, sex in the Song of Solomon? [Cheers and laughter from the audience] Alright. Alright. Okay. I brought along some PowerPoint slides to illustrate. I’m just kidding. Alright, well I should probably pray then before we get to work in what is my favorite part of the Bible. If you are single, I apologize in advance. This will be a very unpleasant sermon for you, because the Bible says to not merely listen to the Word but do what it says. And you can’t.’

The main point of the sermon was that the Song of Solomon is a sex manual that teaches about oral sex. Note that Solomon’s Song, which Driscoll regards as a sex manual, is his favourite part of the Bible.

The Mutual Love of Christ and His People (2004)

A more traditional interpretation of the Song of Solomon is provided by Dr Peter Masters of the Metropolitan Tabernancle in London. His book The Mutual Love of Christ and His People interprets the courtship of the Song of Solomon as providing fascinating scenes and events designed to show the love of Christ for His redeemed people, and their love for Him. Here, also, are lessons for Christians when they become cold or backslidden, showing the way to recover Christ’s presence in their lives. Prophecies of Christ abound in the Song, together with views of the bride’s destiny, as she prepares to cross the mountains into eternal glory, where the greatest wedding of all will take place.

John MacArthur comments (2009)

Some people, however, were so offended by Driscoll’s sermon that they sent a CD copy to Rev John MacArthur in the USA. MacArthur responded in a series entitled ‘The Rape of Solomon’s Song’ (2009), in which he deals with Driscoll’s flawed interpretation of Scripture.

MacArthur says the audience is assured that ‘Solomon’s Song portrays obligatory acts wives must do if this is what satisfies their husbands, regardless of the wife’s own desire or conscience. I was recently given a recording of one of these messages, where the speaker said, “Ladies, let me assure you of this: if you think you’re being dirty, he’s pretty happy.” Such pronouncements are usually made amid raucous laughter, but evidently we are expected to take them seriously. When the laughter died away, that speaker added, “Jesus Christ commands you to do this.” That approach is not exegesis; it is exploitation. It is contrary to the literary style of the book itself. It is spiritually tantamount to an act of rape. It tears the beautiful poetic dress off Song of Solomon, strips that portion of Scripture of its dignity, and holds it up to be laughed at and leered at in a carnal way. Mark Driscoll has boldly led the parade down this carnal path. He is by far the best-known and most prolific popular proponent of handling the Song of Solomon that way. He has said repeatedly that this is his favourite passage of Scripture…’ (Part 1)

MacArthur says it is hard to think of a more appalling misuse of Scripture than turning the Song of Solomon into soft porn. ‘When a speaker deliberately arouses lusts that cannot possibly be righteously fulfilled in unmarried college students or when his personal illustrations fail to guard the privacy and honour of his own wife that is far worse than merely inappropriate. When done repeatedly and with the demeanour of an immature bad-boy, such a practice reflects a major character defect that is spiritually disqualifying… The fact that it is so controversial now is simply more proof that evangelicals have become too much like the world, and too comfortable with the evil characteristics of our culture.’ (Part 3)

MacArthur responds to the claim that the church should be patient with Driscoll for he will mature overtime. ‘These problems have been talked about in both public and private contexts for at least three or four years. At some point the plea that this is a maturity issue and Mark Driscoll just needs time to mature wears thin. In the meantime, the media is having a field day writing stories that suggest trashy talk is one of the hallmarks of the New Calvinism.’

Here is John MacArthur’s response to Driscoll’s sermon:

The Rape of Solomons Song Parts 1-4 (Mark Driscoll’s Preaching – PDF)

When Relevance Becomes Irreverence – The Curious Case of Mark Driscoll

The Pornification of the Pulpit

Driscoll removes Scottish Sermon from his website

Here we must point out that the content of this sexually explicit sermon has been removed from the Mars Hill website. Mark Driscoll writes:

“I received two emails from an older pastor whom I respect very much. In love, he brought to my attention a piece of content from me online that some of my critics have picked up on. It was a message I did out of the country a few years back on the more controversial sections of the Song of Songs. To be honest, I was unaware the content had been posted on The Resurgence. Apparently it was from 2007, and the file was posted about a month ago as part of clearing a backlog of content. Thankfully, I got to preach the entirety of the Song of Songs at the end of 2008 and did a better job with the text than I had done previously. Subsequently, I would commend that content if you are interested in studying the Song of Songs. Allegedly, some of my critics were concerned by the older content, and I think there is wisdom in some of their concerns. So we have pulled that content.”

Has Driscoll repented?

Has Driscoll repented of the content of his sermon, as some claim? In a blog on Covenant Theology, Julius Mickel comments on Driscoll’s sermons: “If Driscoll’s removing them was meant to be taken as an admission that those messages in that context were grossly inappropriate, Driscoll himself gives absolutely no indication of that. So to refer to that post as a token of “repentance” (as some have claimed) is a huge stretch. This way of “address[ing]” these issues is notably lacking in Driscoll’s trademark candour.”

Rev John MacArthur reveals that he has written to Mark Driscoll about his concerns. “I have written Mark privately with my concerns. He rejected my counsel. As a matter of fact, he preached the sermon I have been quoting from seven weeks after receiving my private letter encouraging him to take seriously the standard of holiness Scripture holds pastors to. Here is a small selection from the six-page letter I sent him:

“[Y]ou can[not] make a biblical case for Christians to embrace worldly fads—especially when those fads are diametrically at odds with the wholesome speech, pure mind, and chaste behavior that God calls us to display.”

A pure heart?

We should remember that Driscoll preached his infamous Scottish sermon after he had been in the ministry for more than a decade. He was surely aware of the Apostle Paul’s instruction to Timothy. ‘So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart’ (2 Timothy 2.22). Was the content of his Scottish sermon the outflow of a pure heart? And so we must ask the question: Is Mark Driscoll a false teacher?

You can learn more about Mark Driscoll’s ministry in the book, The New Calvinists (2014), published by The Wakeman Trust and Belmont House Publishing. The book is available from