Westboro Baptist church is located in Topeka, Kansas. The congregation is led by Fred Phelps. You may recognize them as the group of people that hold picket signs at funerals, rock concerts, and various other events. These signs are usually brightly colored and express messages of God’s wrath and judgment upon sin. Last week, Westboro Baptist church planned to hold picket signs at one of the campuses of Mars Hill church (Seattle, Washington). The following is a response written by Mark Driscoll, the pastor of Mars Hill church to Westboro. Upon reading it, I decided to respond to it. I totally disagree with the Westboro Baptist church, and I actually think they are a cult. Driscoll actually quotes the letter written to his church by this cult, and so I will also respond to that, showing exactly why this is a cult. But just because they are a cult doesn’t mean that Driscoll’s response to them isn’t confusing or without inconsistencies. Anyhow, let’s just check out Driscoll’s response. My response will be in red.
This Sunday, the infamous Westboro “Baptist” “Church” (WBC) is scheduled to picket our Federal Way campus in Auburn. You can find more about WBC from their very loving and gracious website, affectionately titled, godhatesfags.com.
Just a side note, Westboro is known mostly for their “God Hates Fags” slogan. They say that they have chosen the word “fag” because it is an “elegant” term used in the Old Testament denoting sinners in general – the term “fags” literally being a pile of sticks that is an illustration of fuel for fire. The imagery describes sinners kindling the wrath of God. That may sound convincing to some, and I don’t want to call them liars, but it certainly shows a lack of discernment. “Fag” in this American culture is a derogatory term for those who are attracted to the same sex. Homosexuality is a sin, and is a result of the sin nature. God hates sin. Holding up signs on the street corner saying “God Hates Fags” is not the way to communicate that.
Unfortunately, that’s really only the tip of the iceberg. Showing up to the funerals of dead soldiers, holding signs that say “Fag Troops,” and communicating to the mourning that their child died because he was a “sodomite” or something is also stupid. This message actually sounds much more like the Pharisees who wanted to remind the blind man that he was full of sins than rejoice in the fact that he had been healed. Sounds like the angry older brother who didn’t want the younger brother to receive forgiveness from their father.
Their similarity to the Pharisees will become evident when Driscoll quotes what they had written to him.
More of a dysfunctional family of religious lawyers than a church, WBC is led by Fred Phelps, who founded the church in 1955. The “church” comprises mostly his family of roughly 70 people.
Jon Stewart once said, “The Westboro Baptist Church is no more a church than Church’s Fried Chicken is a church.” Instead, they’re more of a political hate group who use the name of God to advance their agenda. For the most part, they are self-funded, but they also receive funding from lawsuits.
Doctrinally, they are extreme five-point Calvinists, or what I like to call Crazy Calvinists. They basically believe the underlying message of the Bible is one of God’s hatred and wrath against humankind, and that the Bible is properly interpreted through that filter. Therefore, they believe all mentions of God’s love in the Bible are in reference to God’s Christian elect and not applicable in any way to others outside God’s elect—pretty much a cosmic game of Duck, Duck, Damned.
I agree that they are crazy. Although they would identify themselves as Calvinists, they really aren’t. For instance, in a documentary, one of the church members was asked what would happen to them if they were to get into a car accident. Their response was that they would go to hell. In other words, they find instances like that to be a clear display of God’s judgment. So, if you get into a car accident, then it is proof that you aren’t saved and God is judging you for your wickedness. WBC also believes theirs is the only real church, and that if there were others out there then WBC “would know who they are.” They definitely preach God’s wrath and judgment more than anything. They are just as much in error as those who allow God’s attribute of love to outweigh other verses.
Here is where I disagree with Driscoll. It is crazy to think that God’s love is only for the elect? Why? Would He be sinning if He did?
“”It shall come about that as the LORD delighted over you to prosper you, and multiply you, so the LORD will delight over you to make you perish and destroy you; and you will be torn from the land where you are entering to possess it.” [Deuteronomy 28:63]
“The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity.” [Psalm 5:5]
“The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, And the one who loves violence His soul hates.” [Psalm 11:5]
“I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you,” [Proverbs 1:26]
“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” [Proverbs 6:16-19]
The view that God loves the sinner but hates the sin is actually an idea that finds its roots in the teaching of Mahatma Ghandi. Mark would consider himself a Calvinist, yet it sounds like he believes that God desires the salvation of everyone. He sounds confused. I’ll comment on this later when we read why Mark believes this.
They also believe that, as they wrote in a memo from 2002, that, “Wherever you find organized Christianity in the New Testament, you find it in the form of a visible, local church…with a pastor who preaches the five points of Calvinism as the only gospel,” which is curious since John Calvin wasn’t born until some 1,500 years after Jesus and the formation of the Christian church.
To be fair to Westboro (no I’m not affirming them), I’m sure they aren’t ignorant enough to literally mean that the apostles preached about John Calvin. This actually sounds like the arguments made by free will proponents. We could easily stop Driscoll from using the title “the Prodigal Son” in the future since it isn’t used in the Bible either. We could say that it was a later development. Yet, it is well known that this describes the account in Luke 15. When anyone says “Calvinism”, they refer to the 5 points that comprise it that are derived from Scripture.
Did the apostles preach that you are so dead in sin that you need God’s grace? YES. In fact, that’s found throughout the entire Bible. Did the apostles preach that there is nothing in and of ourselves that could merit the favor of God? YES. That’s found throughout all of the Scriptures. Did the apostles teach that there is an elect of God for whom Christ alone died? YES. Read the greetings to every letter by Paul or Peter. This is evident in every book of the New Testament as well as books of the Old. Did the apostles teach that the Spirit of God must bring you to life because you are dead, and that He doesn’t fail at accomplishing everything He wills to do? YES. Throughout the Bible. Did the apostles teach that those who are saved will continue in good works? YES.
A few months ago, some friends of mine went to a conference where Driscoll was one of the speakers. I was told that they had a large banner in the background of Charles Spurgeon’s head. They were also selling shirts with Spurgeon on them. I find this ironic for Driscoll given the issue he raises here. One of the more famous Spurgeon quotes is that “Calvinism is the gospel.”
“I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.” – Charles Spurgeon
Check out this [link] to read Spurgeon’s defense of Calvinism.
But wait… Didn’t Spurgeon know that Calvin wasn’t born until about 1,500 years after Jesus and the formation of the church?
The “church” pickets up to six locations per day, and up to 15 locations on Sundays. By their own account, they’ve conducted over 45,000 pickets in 50 states and 500 cities including the funerals of dead soldiers. It is estimated they spend around $250,000 per year on picketing.
Explaining their pickets, they say, “We display large, colorful signs containing Bible words and sentiments, including: GOD HATES FAGS, FAGS HATE GOD, AIDS CURES FAGS, THANK GOD FOR AIDS, FAGS BURN IN HELL, GOD IS NOT MOCKED, FAGS ARE NATURE FREAKS, GOD GAVE FAGS UP, NO SPECIAL LAWS FOR FAGS, FAGS DOOM NATIONS, THANK GOD FOR DEAD SOLDIERS, FAG TROOPS, GOD BLEW UP THE TROOPS, GOD HATES AMERICA, AMERICA IS DOOMED, THE WORLD IS DOOMED, etc.”
This is pretty unfortunate.
Oh, and while we’re at it, they think that President Obama is likely the beast from Revelation. You cannot make this stuff up. For people who likely do not drink, they hide it well.
I plan on taking apart their whole Obama is the beast thing at a later time.
WBC says the reason they’ll be at Mars Hill Church is, “To picket the false prophet and blind lemmings at Mars Hill Whore House where they teach the lies that God love [sic] everyone and Jesus died for the sins of all of mankind. You have caused the people to trust in lies to their destruction, and to your damnation. Shame on you for calling yourself the Mars Hill Church! False advertising doesn’t come close! Paul would turn over in his grave at your God-hating, Christ-rejecting lies! You have a form of godliness, but you deny the power thereof…WBC will speak the truth to you in love—as God defines ‘love’. We will tell you that, in fact, there is a standard God has set in this earth that He commands you obey. Your disobedient sin is taking you to hell, and you must repent and mourn for your sins. God does not love everyone—in fact, He hates the majority of mankind, and has purposed to send them to hell when they die. You would know these things if you would pick up a Bible and actually READ THE WORDS!”
Up until now, in this article, I haven’t really commented too much on WBC. Their words to Mars Hill summarize exactly why their message is a false gospel. It isn’t because it’s “Calvinism,” because their message couldn’t be further from it. They accuse Mark of teaching “the lies that God loves everyone and Jesus died for the sins of all of mankind.” This sort of makes me wonder if they confused this Mars Hill church with the Mars Hill where Rob Bell “speaks.” After all, Rob Bell did release “Love Wins” not too long ago – a book about how God is love, and desires everyone to be saved. Rob Bell explains that God’s love is so great, it will eventually melt the hearts of many in hell, and they will turn to God. The only reason they may not be in heaven is because heaven is a “party,” and they are like the awkward people at the party who don’t want to be there.
Almost anyone can diagnose a problem, but it doesn’t logically follow that they can prescribe the right “medicine.” If WBC really feels that Mars Hill is in error, they should tell them. It is obvious that WBC feels Driscoll’s congregation is beyond just some minor doctrinal error. They believe he is a “false prophet,” his congregation are “blind lemmings,” and together they comprise the “Mars Hill Whore House.” They believe this church is completely made up of unbelievers. Let’s assume that Mars Hill is just a bunch of unbelievers. What should these unbelievers do? Repent of their sin and trust Christ to forgive those sins. What does WBC tell them to do?
According to them, they are preaching “love.” For them, that’s a fuzzy way of really saying “law.” What is the message of love? “We will tell you that, in fact, there is a standard God has set in this earth that He commands you obey. Your disobedient sin is taking you to hell, and you must repent and mourn for your sins.“ Their message is, “God has a standard that you aren’t meeting. OBEY His commands, and mourn for your sins.” Where is the gospel? That’s it? That’s loving? “You’re a sinner… recognize it and cry.” That’s absolutely hopeless. This is the message I always hear from them – OBEY.
They sure preach the law hard, and I do believe it should be preached that way. When you declare the law of God, do so in a way that it leaves the listeners HOPELESS. Give them the horribly bad news that they have earned death and eternal hell for themselves. That was God’s intention when He gave the law [Romans 3:20; 7:7]. BUT THEN give them the absolutely good news that Jesus Christ purchased a people with His blood, through His gruesome death, sin is forgiven as God’s wrath was propitiated. That we can stand justified by God through faith and not obedience! All they are doing is heaping burdens on people that they can’t carry themselves without ever telling them of Jesus Christ.
Westboro is nothing but a neo-Pharisaical cult that needs to repent of this sin. They need to realize that they have done nothing but travel across the country to proselytize, but have only made sons of hell that are worse than they are. They have placed heavy unbearable burdens on the backs of anyone who heeds their lies. They are blind guides who lead blind people. They have only stirred up anger through preaching nothing but the hopelessness of the law, and leaving people to writhe in condemnation. And they have become muted clowns of Christianity. No one takes them seriously except for those within their church. Unfortunately, it is that type of thing that only gives them affirmation. You know… since Jesus said that his disciples would be persecuted.
The whole ”read-the-words” of the Bible thingy is actually pretty good advice. And in reading the Bible, we see that it says everyone is loved by God, and though not everyone is saved, anyone who turns from sin and trusts in Jesus will receive eternal life. Additionally, we know that it’s not God’s hatred that leads people to repentance but instead his kindness (Romans 2:4).
Let’s put Mark Driscoll’s claim that “everyone is loved by God” to the test given the Scriptures he uses as support,
Here are some Scriptures that speak plainly about God’s love for people:
- John 1:29: “John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’”
Jesus does take away the sins of the world. This doesn’t mean every single individual. It means He has propitiated the wrath of God on behalf of Gentiles as well as Jews. Salvation can be proclaimed to Chinese people, German people, Canadian people, Russian people, etc. John the Baptist also made this announcement to a Jewish crowd. They would’ve understood “world” as Gentiles. Obviously, not everyone’s sin has been taken away, so we could not take “world” to mean every single individual. People die all the time in their sin. I don’t know what Mark’s view of the atonement is, but it sounds like he wants to use the word “world” literally, but not “takes away the sins.” Or maybe he believes that their sins are forgiven, but they need to accept it or it’s ineffectual. Not sure what he believes. One thing is clear though. John 1:29 doesn’t mention God’s love for both the elect and non-elect.
- John 3:16–17: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
I’ve written about John 3:16 explaining that it normally has a meaning ascribed to it by professing Christians that wasn’t intended by Jesus. Go [here] for a fuller explanation. Again, God did display His love for sinful men through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, but this verse doesn’t mention God loving both the non-elect and elect. God didn’t send Christ into the world to condemn it, because the world was already condemned as mentioned in John 3:18. And if God sent Jesus into the world (as in every single individual) to save it, then He is apparently failing to do so.
- 1 Tim. 2:3–6: “God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men…”
I’ve also written about this, and how Paul isn’t talking about every individual in the world, but is here referring to all types of men (ie kings and those in power). In other words, Jesus Christ didn’t give His life only for homeless people and schoolteachers. He also gave His life for kings and rulers and every other type of person. The context clearly shows that. Click [here] for a fuller explanation.
- 2 Peter 3:9: “He [God] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
Jesus Christ also said we should “love our neighbors” and even “love our enemies.”
So, Fred and WBC, on Jesus’s behalf, this false prophet and the blind lemmings at our “Whore House” welcome you in love.
The sermon next Sunday will be from Luke’s Gospel on how God saved a really bad man named Zacchaeus and how the self-righteous, holier-than-thou religious folks who saw Jesus lovingly befriend him stood around complaining and grumbling—or basically picketing the love of God.
In the providence of God, we call that a funny coincidence. If you make it, we’ll also give you free copies of my book, Doctrine, so you can learn what the Bible says about who God actually is, and we’ll also provide fresh donuts and free coffee, along with smiles and chuckles.
Sadly, I won’t be able to make the party. This false prophet will be at his son’s baseball tournament, enjoying time with his wife and five kids. Happy Father’s Day!
Pastor Mark Driscoll
Mars Hill Church
So that is the letter. Westboro is clearly a cult. Driscoll is confusing. I’ve wanted to write about Westboro for some time. I plan to respond to some of their eschatological claims that sound almost like the date setting prophetic ramblings of other false teachers of the past. Anyhow, hopefully this has shown the root of WBC’s craziness. It isn’t picket signs. It isn’t offensive advertising. It isn’t “Calvinism.” It isn’t anger. It is that they don’t know or preach the gospel.