The Song of Solomon seems to be the most blogged about book of the Bible over the past few days. John MacArthur, in the Rape of Solomon’s Song is critical of Mark Driscoll’s crassness and explicitness in his teaching series. I haven’t heard Mark’s series but I did hear a few things.
In 1992 I preached a sermon at North Beach Baptist church (where I was associate pastor) on Song of Solomon. The title of the message was “Sex That Sizzles” and it was a celebration of the intimacy, the verdant and luxuriously sensual garden, of a sexual relationship in its right context, and in its right time. It got a lot of press and the tape seemed to go all over the place to all kinds of churches and groups. Many had never heard this side of the book before, having heard mostly of its spiritual implications rather than its erotic imagery. People appreciated the talk and I got a lot of invitations to speak at youth groups. But I did it in a respectful way, one which honored the poetic nature of the book.
And I never presented the teaching of Song of Solomon in a prescriptive way, or in a way that would lead someone to demand certain practices because they are celebrated in the Scriptures. This would be paramount to abuse. We need to watch out for that.
As for the argument, I appreciate Mark’s desire to expose the frankness of the book but I also appreciate John M’s desire to protect the mystery of the imagery. Here’s some links:
Irish Calvinist has all 4 links to JM’s messages.
Matt and Ryan say it well.
Tim Challies also wants to protect the mystery
Fallen and Flawed have more story on how this progressed.
Interestingly enough, I was reading poetry from the Persian poet, Rumi, yesterday and some of his stories are far more eye-popping than Song of Solomon and far cruder in comparison.
Also, back in 2002, my good friend Sasa Flek translated and released the Song of Solomon into the Czech language in a beautifully bound book illustrated with Chagall’s erotic and evocative paintings. I know, because I was there. It was an amazing party with actors and readings and purfume and lots of red fabric. Sasa continued to translate the the whole Bible was just officially released last week in Prague. Read about it in the Prague Post in the article “The Good Book Gets a Modern Translation.”
Just for Geeks:
Speaking of translation, and also connected with the mystery vs. relevance debate in Song of Solomon, check out the influence of Walter Benjamin’s ‘Task of the Translator’ here on Google Books version of the Postmodern Bible Reader. I have the big hard copy of this book at home but here you can read about dynamic equivalence in translating the Bible as a “modern” task OR the more postmodern idea of Walter B that a translator has to protect the text in order to honor it. The sentence, says Benjamin, is a “wall” and not a “bottle.” The text must confront the original text more than the transmission of its meaning. In this understanding of translation, it seems to me that John MacArthur is taking Walter Benjamin’s more ‘postmodern’ approach and Mark Driscoll the modern. Just thinking out loud.