At the risk of receiving a severe wedgie from a number of my Reformed acquaintances who run around my game circle, I wanted to respond to a discussion that took place at the ReformCom 2016 with the guys of Apologia radio, N.D. Wilson, and Darren Doane.
I specifically want to focus in upon the bizarre ramblings from Doane regarding what I call his “Jesus is wine theology.” Doane’s “theology,” if we can even call it that, perfectly highlights the horrendous abuse the historical Reformed, typological hermeneutic rains down upon the Bible when a person studies it.
I’ll begin with a bit of background.
Doane is a commercial video director, as well as a filmmaker. He is known for religiously themed work such as Unstoppable, a movie addressing the problem of evil with Kirk Cameron, Collision Course, a documentary that follows around Doug Wilson and the late Christopher Hitchens as they debate in various venues, and Saving Christmas, that carries a 0% at Rotten Tomatoes and has the honor of being the winner of the 2015 Razzie award for worst picture.
So much for taking dominion, but I digress.
I tussled once with Doane on Twitter in the months before his award winning Saving Christmas was released. I even stated that I thought the trailer looked fun when I was defending Kirk’s promotion of the movie on a Catholic radio program against some finger-wagging discernment folks. I wrote about that HERE.
Where I took exception with Saving Christmas was with Doane’s excessive overuse of typology. For instance, in our Twitter exchange, he insisted that Christmas trees are talked about in the Bible because God was the first one to bring a tree into His house. He likened the lamp stand in the tabernacle with us putting Christmas trees in our homes. I wrote about out exchange HERE for those interested.
Doane has since moved from spiritualizing Christmas trees to now spiritualizing wine. At the ReformCon2016, he participated on a live podcast interview for Apologia Radio where he enthusiastically discussed the topic of wine and Jesus and drinking for the Christian. The audio can be heard HERE. His comments begin at the 56:06 mark. Or watch the Youtube portion HERE.
I’ve written out a loose transcript of the relevant portions I wish to address. Keep in mind that I have slightly edited his remarks removing the “…and ums,” along with smoothing out the excitable effervescence that bubbles from his talk.
When I became a Christian I didn’t drink, which is even better because I was double-holy. I not only became a Christian, but I was like super moral. Like double-anointed portion. I don’t drink. This is fantastic, I was the sober guy.
When I became a Christian, the last thing I even thought about was alcohol. I mean, I just received salvation. My sins were forgiven. My interest for the word ignited. I dug into the Scriptures because I wanted to nail down what the Bible taught on important points of doctrine. I couldn’t have cared less about determining the limits of my Christian liberty with drinking a beer or scotch. There were deeper, more profound truths that occupied my heart.
And who was he hanging with as a new Christian? He gives the impression all his friends from church were a bunch of frat party drunks and he was the designated driver taking them home from a Sunday night fellowship.
Skipping to the end, as he wraps up his musings about Jesus and wine, he explains that even after he had studied out wine from the Bible, he still did not drink. That was until an acquaintance asked him why and then remarked, “Whose gonna teach your daughter to drink?” implying, “how is she gonna learn to drink?”
When I heard that, I thought, “Eh?” Christian parents are obligated to teach their kids how to drink? Your kids have to be taught how to drink? What exactly does that entail? Them watching you regularly down a rum and coke? Spirited dinner table discussion of the state drinking age limit? Or what is the best way to age whiskey? Honestly? What is the bizarre fixation with neo-Reformed folks and drinking booze? I’ve never understood it. It’s like a little kid who is now potty trained and has to tell everyone he is wearing big boy pants.But let me move along to what I wish to address specifically and will get me into trouble,
Years later, because I love theology, every year I would sort of pick something to dive into. One year I picked wine. Jesus did say “I’m Wine;” so I thought I would dig into the Bible on “wine.” So I spent almost a whole year going through the Bible, looking at how wine was used.
Jesus said “I’m wine?” Searching my Bible Works, I can’t find any where in the Gospels when Jesus said such a thing. Maybe he has in mind John 15, where Jesus says “I am the vine and you are the branches?” While it is true that wine comes from grapes that do grow on vines, that is not the same as Jesus saying “I’m wine.” Or it could be when Jesus talked about putting new wine into old wine skins, and he assumes the “new wine” is Jesus. Who knows?
When you start digging into something it gets super fascinating. Like when did wine first appear? When did fruit first appear? In fact in creation it’s at the end of day three and that ties into end of day three of Jesus’ Resurrection, there some cool stuff going on there. What is wine? With wine, you actually have to take grapes and kill them and you have to smash them and you have to kill it, you have to bury it. And put it into somewhere dark then after time it comes out. It’s totally new. It’s glorified. You have this Jesus-picture thing going on. It’s like in theology this is getting really cool and fun and you’re going through this stuff.
And then something hits me about communion, and that’s what theology does, it does everything, it rolls, it starts going, it starts paradigm shifting, all because of theology, right? … And then all of the sudden it hit me that wine burns. [pause here for dramatic effect]. You take grape juice. It’s sweet, it’s fun. My kids love it. But you take wine, Wooo. It burns. It’s fire. God is a consuming fire. Oh Darren’s on the skinny branch right now, he’s just reaching. But you go back and look at fire in the Bible [another dramatic pause] That’s. What. Theology. Does.
I can imagine the scruffy-bearded young folk in the audience listening to that nonsense for the first time thinking to themselves, “Oooohhhh, That’s so deep. I never thought about all those connection between Jesus and wine before.” Well yeah. No one else has either. What he presents is borderline neo-orthodoxy gobbledygook. (I chuckle when he says wine burns and is like fire and you need to go back and look at fire in the Bible. Someone has. It doesn’t mean what you think).
Let’s break down that theology:
God created the seed-bearing plants on day three.
Grapes are seed-bearing plants.
You have to crush and squeeze and essentially “kill” grapes to make wine.
Jesus said he was the vine and we are the branches.
Jesus was crushed and squeezed and killed.
But was raised to life three days later.
See? God creates plants day 3+grapes being crushed=Jesus in the tomb 3 days! Wine! THEOLOGY!
Doane’s theology is no more theological as that tongue speaking 13-year old girl telling everyone God says in the Bible that he wants them to be a funnel to receive His blessing. The only difference is that Doane gets a pass from the folks at RefCon because he hangs with Doug Wilson and says he is Reformed and Calviney and of course, drinks wine.
Now I can hear my detractors complain, “Fred, that is Doane’s views, and he is a little whimsical when he reads the Bible.” In fact, during the Facebook comment discussion when I reviewed Saving Christmas, even R.C. Sproul Jr. chimed in telling me that Doane’s imaginative interpretations are unique to a small number of individuals in the theonomy camp like James B. Jordan (who is no longer a theonomist as I understand it). That sounds like a reasonable clarification. It’s inaccurate to impugn a majority of individuals based upon the weird ramblings of a few.
I believe that objection is problematic, however.
Here is where my observations will stir up with my Reformed acquaintances the kind of excitement generated when one throws a live squirrel into a gymnasium filled with 250 yellow labs: The tendency to spiritualize and abuse Scripture with heavy doses of typology is endemic to the Reformed hermeneutic.
The Reformed hermeneutic claims that because Jesus is the fullest revelation from God, the Apostles, as they wrote the New Testament, were led by the Holy Spirit to spiritualize the Old Testament. They would, for instance, redefine the recipients of the OT prophecies that were originally given to the people of Israel, as now pertaining to the Church. The Reformed hermeneutic teaches that the NT has interpretative priority over the OT. Thus, Reformed interpreters believe they are at liberty to utilize a typological/spiritualized hermeneutic when reading the Bible.
The degree to which typology adversely effects the meaning of Scripture will vary from person to person, but it is certainly there among the Reformed. One need merely to look over the few Reformed commentaries on the Song of Solomon to see what I mean. Guys like John Gill and John Collinges, wrote massive, encyclopedic works on Song of Solomon simply to say it is a book about Jesus loving the Church. A.W. Pink, who has always been a favorite of mine, was also notorious for his heavy typological emphasis in his various gleaning series, and even the 1689 Federalism Baptists emphasize typology almost to the exclusion of other hermeneutical elements necessary to the reading and understanding of Scripture. The worst is with folks like John Walton, who turns the creation account of Genesis into some theological picture about the temple of God or whatever.
I certainly believe God presents pictures and types in the OT that are fulfilled with an anti-type in the NT, but the writer of Scripture tells us what is going on. He doesn’t leave it to us to creatively find the type/anti-type connection. A good example would be marriage originally intending to picture Christ’s love for the church and the church loving Christ. The thing is, however, Paul tells us in Ephesians 5 that marriage was meant to be that picture.
Types become a problem when enthusiastic Christians begin seeing types when none really exist. One that just drives me crazy and is often appealed to by Reformed folks is 1 Samuel 17 when David defeated Goliath. I listened to one Lutheran pirate, who will remain unnamed, spiritualize that entire story as a type of Jesus defeating Satan. David was Jesus, Goliath Satan. He went so far as to claim the five smooth stones David gathered from the brook before he met Goliath in battle were the 5 wounds of Jesus on the cross, the nail prints in his hands, his feet, and the spear wound in his side.
Though it sounds all pious and spiritually insightful, it misses the entire point of what 1 Samuel is trying to convey. It’s merely contrived fancy to say it is all a big story about Jesus defeating Satan.
Where types don’t really exist, any that are discovered become subject to the interpreter’s imagination and it ultimately strips the real authorial intent from the meaning of Scripture. Bible study is turned into a free-for-all, and the true understanding of the text is lost. If you take that approach to reading the Bible you will always be out bobbing around out on the skinny branch with Doane.