Doctrine: What can any Christian believe about Mark Driscoll?

There are very few people outside of Mars Hill leadership who can still be considered Mark Driscoll “apologists” but there are still a fair number of people in the world of conservative evangelicalism who would be very prepared, even eager, to welcome back a restored Mark Driscoll who can convincingly claim that he has learned to not be a mean-spirited or abusive leader. This post nicely sums up where a lot of people in the evangelical-reformed camp are with Mark Driscoll: he’s screwed up, pretty badly even, but at least he’s not like Rob Bell. John Piper’s contrasting tweets about Bell (farewell) and Driscoll (paraphrased: please come back soon, everyone should be rooting for you) have been pointed out by at least a few people. Geiger’s post draws the contrast that I think many have implicitly drawn: sure Driscoll has messed up in his leadership style, but at least his doctrine is solid.

Really?

It’s strange to me that so many in Driscoll’s tribe think that he’s come through all of this with his doctrine intact, since that same tribe appears to take a very great interest in pastoral epistles. One of the centrepieces of the “young, restless, and Reformed” movement (which is fast becoming the “middle-aged, grumpy and still Reformed” movement, but I digress) has been its emphasis on complementarian theology, which is largely derived from the qualifications for elders that are laid out these same pastoral epistles. It would be beyond bizarre for a group that holds to and carefully justifies male eldership (something that they need to do in an age that is much friendlier to the egalitarian position) for them to not have noticed that in the same books there were all these other qualifications for eldership that Driscoll did not meet. Contra Geiger I must say that Driscoll has guarded neither his life nor his doctrine.

Creeds, Confessions, and Compromise

Paul Helm makes an important observation about the need to keep in mind the historical circumstances of the drafting of a creed or confession:

One of the things that the recently-published volumes on the work of the Westminster Assembly has brought home is the adventitious or accidental aspect of the Confession, the way it was composed, what was put in and what left out. (Chad Van Dixhoorn (ed.) The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly, (OUP, 2012)). The finished product was influenced by the pressure of time, the opinion of the majority of divines who on a particular day happened to be attending a committee or sub-committee, parliamentary pressure to get a particular job done, interruptions, and no doubt the mood of the meetings. Together with the clashes of personalities, the hobby-horses, and so forth. Cold print cannot convey this. In such circumstances, in the messiness of human life, the articles that resulted, chapters in the Confession, were a series of compromises, clause by clause in some cases, and we must remember that. As the debate on one matter was brought to an end, and a majority were content with some particular wording, a minority or minorities were not content, or not as content. In the nature of things confessions and creeds are forms of compromise draftings that attract a majority on a particular day.

We Are All 1990s Suburban Youth Group Kids Now

jars-of-clay-1995

There was a fun little post on Buzzfeed a while ago titled “33 Ways You Know You Were A Youth Group Kid” about the cultural trappings of 1990s and early 2000s church youth groups. Most of what was in this article was stuff that I could immediately identify from my own adolescence as a youth group kid and/or my early 20s as an adult leader of church youth groups. Go read the article all about Teen Study Bibles and dc Talk and lock-ins and you can get a sense of this little parallel universe that suburban church kids like me inhabited. While my first impulse was to look at this and think, oh that’s nice, someone else remembers the stuff I remember, I think this goes a little deeper. I do not know if white evangelical Christianity realizes how much of the contemporary church is driven by the cultural forces that developed in and for all those church basements, gyms and multi-purpose rooms fifteen to twenty years ago. I had forgotten about this for a while, but I was reminded of it by a post pondering why there are so many nearly identical church plants popping up in North American cities. Look at the cues described:

  • Approximately 15 minutes of praise music, played by a rock band.
  • A projector, sound system and stage lighting
  • A separate nursery and children’s program concurrent with “big church”
  • A 25 to 40 minute sermon delivered by a young, informally dressed man
  • An offering, plus maybe a sacrament (communion, etc.)
  • A closing song or two, also led by the rock band.
  • Service length: between 70 and 90 minutes.

Now go back to that Buzzfeed article describing the lives of teenage youth group kids with their treasured Jars of Clay CDs, think about the length of a typical youth group weeknight program, probably 70-90 minutes. Guess what happened almost  every week? A bible study centred on the words of a young, informally dressed man, who probably did most of the talking for, oh, say, 25 to 40 minutes. And yes, all our worship lyrics were projected onto a screen. The church-planting (and re-planting) model that has widely been embraced in the 2000s and 2010s is not something that appeared out of nowhere, I imagine it is simply a continuation of everything that those most passionate youth group kids – the ones who went to bible college and seminary afterwards – enjoyed about their Wednesday or Thursday evenings at “Fuel, The Edge, Fire, Reverb, The Blaze, Kindle, or Echo.

The Most Disturbing Quote Coming From L’Affaire Driscoll

keller

It’s nothing that Driscoll himself has said, it’s nothing that any of his accusers have said, for me, it’s this:

“But the brashness and the arrogance and the rudeness in personal relationships — which he himself has confessed repeatedly — was obvious to many from the earliest days, and he has definitely now disillusioned quite a lot of people.”

This is a quote that the New York Times collected from none other than Tim Keller. I’m not sure if Keller will expand on this at all, but what he says here is pretty damning for both Mark and for the larger movement of American Calvinism. Arrogance, rudeness – and that it was obvious even from the “earliest days.” I don’t know what Keller means by “earliest days” – I assume that when Mars Hill was nothing but a bible study on the other coast that Keller had no idea about it, but certainly by the mid-2000s, Keller had to have had Driscoll on his radar. Ten years. Given how seriously most in the Reformed community take the pastoral epistles, I want to know how Keller et al squared a brash, arrogant, rude man whose traits were “obvious” with the requirements for church eldership.

This disturbs me because Keller, of all the leaders of the conservative, evangelical Reformed church in the US, is the one for whom I have the greatest respect. He has been successful as a church planter and pastor without seeming to get enmeshed in the scandals of spiritual abuse, sexual abuse, or any kind of financial wrongdoing. It disappoints me though that he is now appearing to admit that those around Driscoll who had the most power to rebuke or blunt him kept their mouths shut because they thought that Driscoll was effective as a communicator.

Gavin McInnes and Free Speech

For those who have been following the debate about VICE co-founder Gavin McInnes and his article on transphobia, this piece, “In Defense of Gavin McInnes,” written by Justine Tunney, is a good statement about the importance of free speech:

I just want to say that as a trans woman, I feel very triggered by this whole incident. Not because I found what he wrote to be offensive; I honestly don’t care what he thinks about trans women. The reason why I’m triggered, is because Mister McInnes’ crucifixion at the hands of the bloodthirsty progressive mob, brings back traumatic memories of the times when I received the same treatment. I’m also triggered by the loss of freedom in our society, as the list of people persecuted for thoughtcrime in our society grows longer and longer.

Mark Noll’s Report on American Bible Reading

Historian Mark Noll reports on the findings of the Bible in American Life Report:

1. Catholics are reading the Bible outside of worship services more.

2. The KJV continues to be overwhelmingly popular.

3. African Americans read the Bible much more than other communities.

4. The real story of the Bible in America is more interesting than we thought it was.

Samuel Davies and Emotional Outbursts

When thinking about Great Awakening preaching we often think of the emotional outbursts that accompanied it. Consider the response to Edwards’ famous “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” sermon, how people openly wailed at Whitefield’s itinerant ministry, or how people fell as if struck under Wesley’s. In light of this, I was interested to read this comment by Hughes Oliphant Old about Samuel Davies, a revival preacher of the same period, who was known as one of America’s greatest orators:

His sermons are theologically sound, but even more importantly, they are theologically perceptive. Davies drew large crowds and was a popular preacher, as were George Whitefield and Gilbert Tennent, and yet we never hear of emotional outbursts attending his preaching. He was a consummate orator, yet never a rabble-rouser. He was prophetic and preached about sensitive problems of the day without any trace of the contentiousness we find in some of the New Lights of lesser magnitude. He seemed to be equally at home preaching to black slaves and to Virginia planters. His preaching was both fervent and gentlemanly.

Hughes Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, Volume 5: Moderatism, Pietism, and Awakening (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 154.

Doddridge was Essentially Orthodox

Philip Doddridge (1702-1751) was an influential nonconformist minister and educator who ran the dissenting academy in Northampton. He wrote a number of books, including the now class Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul (1745). Though a Calvinist, he was open to other theological perspectives, including Arianism. Though his language was at times confused, he was ultimately orthodox. See the words of Van Den Berg and Nuttall:

But essentially, Doddridge was orthodox. Over against the accusation of Arianism, brought against Doddridge as well as against Watts, Goodricke pointed out that Doddridge maintained the full divinity of Christ. Nor was he a Socinian: in his doctrine of redemption Christ’s sacrifice as an atonement for our sins took a central place. Neither was he a Pelagian: man’s salvation depended from start to finish on God’s saving grace. The accusation of Remonstrantism was also far from the truth, for Doddridge unequivocally maintained the doctrine of predestination. Finally, on many occasions Doddrige had defended the idea of “plenary inspiration,” so that on this important point also the accusation fell flat.

J. Van Den Berg and G. F. Nuttall, Philip Doddridge and the Netherlands: 1702-1751 (Leiden: Brill, 1987), 63.

From The Vault: Mark Driscoll Vs. Mark Driscoll

 

mark-driscoll-qwest

This was four years ago:

In recent years we’ve found that Mark Driscoll does like to have his authoritah respected by his church. From a NY Times article on Mars Hill

“In 2007, two elders protested a plan to reorganize the church that,according to critics, consolidated power in the hands of Driscoll and his closest aides. Driscoll told the congregation that he asked advice on how to handle stubborn subordinates from a “mixed martial artist and Ultimate Fighter, good guy” who attends Mars Hill. “Hisanswer was brilliant,” Driscoll reported. “He said, ‘I break their nose.’ ” When one of the renegade elders refused to repent, the church leadership ordered members to shun him. One member complained on an online message board and instantly found his membership privileges suspended. “They are sinning through questioning,” Driscoll preached.”

Hmm. I wonder how an earlier incarnation of Driscoll, as depicted by the Tall Skinny Kiwi would have seen this? Once there was a Mark Driscoll who was less than impressed by pastors with big egos:

“This one guy, who’s ministry was named after himself, gets up to the stage which had his name plastered on 3 different banners around the stage. Mark Driscoll was next up to speak after this braggart and instead of trying to do one better, he simply bows his head and prays for the entire time a prayer of repentance for our arrogance. Then he walks back to our table and sits down. Sweet! Soooo timely and prophetic. I’ll never forget that one.”

Now I suppose the legion of Driscoll apologists will rush to point out that Driscoll has not ever called anything Mark Driscoll Ministries or something of that sort. Whatever. Arrogance can manifest in all manner of forms. Driscoll used to be the sort of guy who could pick out the sort guy he is now.

Eric Margolis on Margaret MacMillan

I thought this quote was relevant in light of Dan’s last post. Eric Margolis, reflecting on the centenary of the Great War, wrote:

This mournful anniversary has reopened fierce debate over who was responsible for the Great War.

On one side of the debate is historian Margaret MacMillan, whose new book “The War That Ended Peace,” lays primary blame on Germany’s military and commercial ambitions. MacMillan is a nice lady – I’ve debated her on TV – but her tedious new book is so steeped in traditional British/Anglo-Saxon bias against Germany as to be of limited value.

On the other is “The Sleepwalkers – How Europe Went to War in 1914” by Cambridge professor Christopher Clark. This brilliant book is the finest, most instructive, best balanced book ever written on the origins of the Great War.