Controversial pastor Mark Driscoll has shared his thoughts on an often-debate issue: Does the Bible permit Christians to get tattoos?
In a video newsletter posted to his website this week, the Arizona-based Trinity Church pastor said that while he does not have any tattoos, he's not against them - and neither is the Bible.
" ... If you love Jesus, and you're of age, and your conscience is clear and you want to do it as an artistic expression - or maybe even to share your faith with a verse - I would say then it's between you and the Lord Jesus and I would give it to conscience, and I don't think there's anything in Scripture that expressly forbids it," he said.
The pastor went on to address Leviticus 19:26-30, which reads, "Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord."
"When it comes to tattoos, there's only one place in the Bible that seems to say you can't get a tattoo," he asserted.
Driscoll explained the verse in context: In the days of the Old Testament, some Christians took part in the cultish, ancient pagan practice of marking and cutting their bodies in order to be affiliated with "the realm of the dead," essentially branding themselves like cattle.
Thus, the Bible isn't just referring to "any old marking of the body" in Leviticus.
"What God's people were not to do is brand themselves as if they belonged to some pagan god ... God wanted His people to not be doing things that were pagan and non-Christian, and demonic in nature," Driscoll said.
Because the Old Testament ceremonial and civil laws have been fulfilled by the death and resurrection of Christ, such rules no longer apply to Christians. Instead, we are "no longer under the law, we're under grace and the rule of Jesus."
"I'm not saying that we don't obey the Bible, and I'm not saying that it doesn't matter. I'm saying that when it's fulfilled by Jesus, we're no longer under and obligated to it," the pastor clarified.
While there is nothing wrong with getting a tattoo, Driscoll encouraged younger viewers think carefully about why they want a tattoo and whether or not getting one will honor their parents' wishes. He also urged those considering getting a tattoo to make sure it is not offensive in nature.
He added, "There's also nothing in Scripture that expressly commands it. So it's not something you have to do. I don't think it's something that you're forbidden to do. I think that it's something, in relationship with the Holy Spirit and wise counsel, you can do if you want to."
Currently one in five U.S. adults has at least one tattoo (21 percent) which is up from the 16 percent and 14 percent who reported having a tattoo in 2003 and 2008, respectively, by the Harris Poll.
Driscoll, who famously stepped down from his position as senior pastor of Seattle-based Mars Hill Church amid allegations of plagiarism, bullying and an unhealthy ego, preached his first stermon at Trinity Church over Easter weekend.
"Great meeting all that visited our open house from around the valley as well as those from outside the area," he tweeted at the time. "Enjoyed preaching the Gospel and meeting many new friends at @TheTrinityChrch open house yesterday."
The 45-year-old pastor first revealed he and his wife, Grace, were opening a new church in Phoenix back in February. According to the church website, Trinity Church hopes to be a place where "lives are transformed through learning the Bible and loving people."
"Our church aspires to celebrate and honor other churches in Phoenix and beyond, partnering with them for the cause of God's Kingdom," it reads.