Why I “hate” Mark Driscoll so much (p.s. I don’t)


[This is a reply I wrote to an email asking me “why do you hate Mark Driscoll so much?” Driscoll is a prominent Evangelical pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. He is controversial for his outspoken views on women, sex, homosexuals, men, church government, church culture, biblical interpretation, and theology. In other words, he can’t seem but to attract attention. In the particular circles I run in, his name and views often come up, so I felt it warranted some discussion.]

I “hate” Driscoll like Luther and Calvin hated the Catholic Church: maybe too much, but not without very, very good reason. So, in other words, I don’t actually hate him. I love him dearly, but my heart breaks over some things about how he conducts himself and his ministry.

The “New Reformed” need a new reformation, in my opinion, and my problem is mainly with individuals that happen to be put up as the main faces of this “movement”: Mark Driscoll, Justin Taylor, Carl Trueman, Al Mohler, and Douglas Wilson (at times). My problem is with these particular people, more than it is with the movement itself. They just happen to “define” much of that movement.

I will never discourage people to not listen to Matt Chandler (as I also said here), John Piper, Francis Chan, or even D.A. Carson, even though, theologically, I disagree with them on a lot (mainly on very secondary issues–even though they wouldn’t think they’re very secondary–and that’s another problem I have).

Driscoll was good and served a purpose (like the Pope), but it’s time to move on. There’s (now) little he has to offer as a preacher, teacher, writer, leader, “theologian”, or “pastor” that isn’t present in many other men that are far more qualified in education, theology, wisdom, sensitivity, and love.

Could he grow in these things? Yes, I pray he does, but he repeatedly errs on the side of doubling-down rather than reconsideration.

I can’t tell you how weird it was going to the one Acts 29 conference I went to a few years ago with my old church (which is all about Acts 29 teaching, ethos, and theology). Seriously, everyone was dressed exactly the same–including me. They talked the same, threw the same names out, thought the same, and had read the same books. It was huge wake-up call for me.

The point is this: I think Driscoll is good at creating a culture more than disciples. We need to cultivate both of those things in our people, but I think the priority should be reversed.

The beginning of Mark Knoll’s Scandal of the Evangelical Mind begins with him saying “this is an epistle by a wounded lover”. That’s how I feel. In the end, I really don’t actually “hate” these men. I see how much good they have done. But I also see how much more they could do and how they have made secondary things into things of such primary importance, while becoming so insensitive to others.

With where I’ve gone in my journey since leaving college, I could never teach anything at my old church. Driscoll would definitely never let me teach anything at his church, under the banner of “trying to maintain doctrinal purity”. I wouldn’t be allowed to lead a home group at those churches. They wouldn’t let me do any campus ministry. Heck, I don’t even know if they’d let me be a member. And it’s because they wouldn’t trust me to be “biblical”.

These things hurt, but not because of anything having to do with me. It’s because of what that says about them, what they believe,  and what it says is in them. Namely, this tendency to put every “pet” doctrine and idea under the heading of “the Gospel”, therefore making it non-negotiable, necessary for sound thinking, and un-challenge-able lest the Gospel itself be defiled and fall.

If everything is justified as part of “the Gospel”, then it loses its power, meaning, and purpose.

And that is something that is ultimately damaging to the church, and anything that is ultimately damaging to Christ’s bride is something that should not be embraced, but be actively discouraged against.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures

–Paul the Apostle in his letter to the Corinthians

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26 thoughts on “Why I “hate” Mark Driscoll so much (p.s. I don’t)

  1. I read the post (and then I went back and read the post you linked to about Chandler).

    Of course I’m biased here, a member of an Acts 29 church, and not only that, but at the church where Chandler is lead pastor, but a lot of your concerns in the first post are founded in some ways (though maybe a bit harsh ;)), but I love what you said about Chandler in the second post: “This message reminded me that Chandler is not a “team” player. He is a pastor at heart that is sensitive to the world and the people around him and is fully capable of responding appropriately. His commitment is to Christ and nothing else.”

    I think that Acts 29 recognizes this and this is, honestly, part of the reason Chandler is the new president. I can’t know for sure of course, but I suspect, knowing Chandler and knowing enough about Driscoll, coupled with the information we’ve been given about the transfer of leadership, that this is in part what’s going on.

    As for creating a culture, well, this is present everywhere, right? Not just within new-reformed or old-reformed or art or engineering or coffee drinkers or writers: like attracts like, and sometimes when you have all the same likes together in one massive room, the amount of plaid and beards present is overwhelming, but it doesn’t make the culture itself wrong. Not any more than when you gather a room of coffee snobs who also all happen to like the same literature and music—which Philadelphia is full of =)

    My point is, making disciples is the point, yes, but along the way, the disciples will create culture (a la Andy Crouch) and this is a GOOD thing—provided it goes further than plaid shirts and bearded faces. Which, ironically, Driscoll and Chandler both don’t have with any sort of regularity 😉

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  2. I still respect Chandler, of them all, he’s also had a lot things happen to him (much more important things) that maybe kept him away from all the doctrinal drama. Would like to see how he continues on. And lets be honest, the only reason he is now president is because of John Piper who dubbed him the next JP. That’s been coming since a while back. Driscoll sought reconciliation with Piper, but it was clear that Chandler was the next to the new reformed “throne”, per se.

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  3. What concerns me in particular is, despite all of the verbiage around being “Biblical”, they (Mark Driscoll specifically) strike me as more faithful to what you refer to as their culture than to actual scripture. I know this is a big claim, but after seeing some of Mark Driscoll’s talks online, I find the way he defends his perpsectives by manipulating scripture highly concerning. It’s one thing to intrepret scripture differently, which leads to plenty of pretty profound differences in opinion, but it’s quite another thing to actively distort scripture. As just one example, I’ll offer up a video I commented on a couple months ago on Facebook: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WPVxndUcHQ. Listen to his (and his wife’s) reference to 1 Timothy 5:8, and then read what the Bible actually says.

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  4. Congrats, PH, you just raised my blood pressure a whole bunch. Ah, that video is exactly the kind of thing I’m talking. The only example we have of church discipline being done is when a guy was sleeping with his step-mother. Hardly the same thing as being a stay-at-home dad.

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  5. Wait, aren’t you a member/leader at an Acts 29 church now?

    Also, can you give some specific examples of the secondary doctrines that these guys make into being part of the Gospel? I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but I’m curious what doctrines you have in mind.

    Lastly, are you suggesting it’s not important to defend these doctrines (whichever ones you have in mind) or others like them? Is doctrine important to you?

    P.S. Not sure if you’re referencing RH, but they would definitely let you be a member and from the little I know, would probably let you be a S.G. leader…Just sayin’ 😉

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  6. PH, thanks for sharing that video. I think it’s important to point out that if you read Piper’s book on male/female roles closely, he actually disagrees with Driscoll’s position on this issue.

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  7. Whit – (I’m copy/pasting this from Facebook, forgive me. Others asked these same questions.)

    Okay, I very intentionally left out a discussion of the “secondary doctrines” because that would make the post about those ideas, which is precisely what I’m criticizing him for. Even if I agreed with him on these issues, I would still feel like he has made them way too “essential” to being a Christian.

    Unfortunately, we as humans are wired in such a way that, on these topics in particular, right when we here something they believe that we don’t like, we end up writing off much more of what they say. I’m sure there’s at least one “pet issue” each of us has that the other disagrees with them on, that ends up discrediting the one person in the eyes of the other.

    I’ll give one example I’ve been really open and public about on my blog. I think God created the world by means of evolution. This is becoming less of a controversial idea. BUT, I also don’t think that Adam and Eve were historical figures (for MANY reasons). Driscoll would hesitate to say I’m a a Christian because I believe that. He puts the idea of “historical Adam” on the same level of importance as “Christ raised from the dead” (in other words, an essential aspect of the Gospel itself).

    But I won’t put that in this particular post, because so many other Christians agree with Driscoll on this one point (perhaps even you), that the second I were to say that, they would write me off as “super-liberal” and not listen to any of the other critiques. I think people can think different things on this issue and still be Orthodox, solid believers, so I didn’t want to make the post about those things. Maybe I’ll write about this stuff as time passes, but some things end up being too unnecessarily distracting to be helpful.

    There are many more things I could say about Driscoll, but I’ll stop there. Does that answer the question to your satisfaction?

    And, as far as RH goes…honestly, if they really asked me what I thought about a lot of things, they wouldn’t let me teach there. I could probably be a member at RH. Not at Mars Hill. And yes, my church is Acts 29, but you have to work pretty hard to find that affiliation on our site, and none of our guys go to the conferences, keep up with the scene, or connect with the “culture” of Acts 29 at all. It’s more to help build relationships and help people that are new to the city and like Acts 29 find a church that won’t be absolutely offensive to their sentiments. It’s easy to find my church through Acts 29’s site. It’s very hard to find Acts 29 through our site. Did that make sense?

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  9. Interesting discussion. I’m pretty much in the dark about a lot of this but there are puzzle pieces coming my way and I will research further because I am passionately curious. Here are some of the puzzle pieces I have: Mark Driscoll—I follow him “lightly” on Twitter. What I read sounded good. Heard he is now controversial. Saw him talk about his sex book on The View—ok with interview. Did not read book. John Piper—like him a lot but long time since I’ve read him. Follow him on Twitter—like his tweets. Mars Hill Church—Seattle. Love the castle! Keep hearing Mark Driscoll controversial—will keep watch. Mars Hill Church—familiar due to former pastor, Rob Bell. I did read Love Wins and watched an interview about it. Agree with John Piper regarding Bell: Farewell Rob Bell. I am very familiar with Calvin and I know what reformed theology is. Acts 29—new to me but a former Sunday School student of mine is pastoring one and he is rock solid. So these are my puzzle pieces and I love to stay in touch with the modern Christian culture. Thus, I have no opinions at this time but that passionate curiosity has begun. The puzzle begins.
    About me? I have been a put-my-hand-to-the plow-and-don’t-look-back Christ follower form36 years. Prior to conversion I was a student of every philosophy out there, which is why I love the Word of God. He is my what I call my First Voice of the day. I spend time soaking it in, studying, and throwing my commentary out on Twitter—not the SimplySage one. I walk a delightful love relationship with God and actively pursue solitude and silence so I can listen to the Holy Spirit. I am not charismatic. I have read Francis Chan—really like. I have a deep love for the lost and mix with all sorts in my workplace. I will never let non-essential doctrinal issues divide me from my spiritual family. (But I did have to let Rob Bell go.) In essentials unity, in non-essentials peace, in all things love.
    Just wanted you to know I’m reading what you write with some avid curiosity. I could formulate an opinion but don’t have enough information. But …
    I will say in my 36 year walk church trends change about every ten years. How well I remember the “Worship War, lived through many fallen preachers (sad), then Christians became a force in politics, then seeker-sensitive, the emerging church, and now suddenly the word “missional” is hip. (I do love the great coffee.) But are we “trending” again?
    What made me finally say to myself “stop the madness” and riveted my entire Christian view about church, however, was a trip to Rome. When I walked the streets Peter and Paul walked, saw the Coliseum, of course the art, museums, and the Vatican (tears streamed down my cheeks at its beauty) but mostly when I went into subterranean Rome and saw early Christian churches—their utter simplicity, their stark furnishings—I came away with a new humility about “church”. I thought to myself, “What have we become?” Tears streamed down my cheeks again, this time of sorrow for the modern day church and repentance for myself for leaving my “first love” —
    Not that I don’t appreciate robust debate and discussion but NEVER forget our beginning. Remember … who … we … are.

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  10. P.S. This line is spot-on truth. “The point is this: I think Driscoll is good at creating a culture more than disciples. We need to cultivate both of those things in our people, but I think the priority should be reversed.”
    Husband (deep in the Word, lives it, a rare pure-hearted one) gave me more puzzle pieces this morning about Driscoll. Since we’re both out the door to work not time to investigate further. I am exceptionally concerned now. Fear he is heading into the false teacher category. How many times have I seen this and their end is not good!
    This can breed cynicism so let’s exercise caution with this.
    Get well soon, Paul. Blogging from a hospital bed—a time to “be still” and know that He is God. Here’s something to lift your day—http://wp.me/p1t8nW-n1
    Peace of Christ to you.

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  11. I would tend to disagree about your remarks about ‘creating a culture’, not because I disagree with your observations, but simply because I don’t think that a bunch of people who mimic each other constitutes a culture.

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  19. This entry is fantastic, it really captures my own feelings about Mark Driscoll. As my understanding grows it is more and more apparent to me that the movement has to be away from adding so-called ‘unquestionable tenants of faith’ to our beliefs, and move into the realm of narrowing down what we take as timeless truth.

    Literal beliefs like a historical Adam and Eve, a physical ‘Devil’, complimentarianism, don’t necessarily hurt our personal faith until we put our faith in them. However, when we raise the foundational nature of these beliefs to the level of Christ’s divinity, death and resurrection, we are sure to do that, and argue these ‘secondary doctrines’ with the same conviction as our salvation.

    This then does far more to damage the church when these beliefs are challenged, outdated and discarded. It is for many as if Christianity has been proven ‘wrong’, which brings the disdain of non-believers and the disillusionment of members within the church. It is wholly necessary to teach the err of man within understanding God and the Bible lest we lead people astray in assuming the man-made structures of belief built around the Bible are unquestionable.

    The church I have been raised in has been counter-culturally Egalitarian from the word ‘go’, but I am witnessing from afar the tearing apart of other churches as the Christian Missionary Alliance Denomination in Canada voted to ordain Women in Canada. This has caused a fantastic struggle of faith for an older generation who believe their governing authority has turned heretical, and has responded by re-stating their ultimate conviction of complimentarianism. When gender roles are an integral part of your belief, the liquidation of this format can be faith-shaking. Alternatively, young adults are responding by leaving the church in droves because of the perceived inflexibility and dictatorship of the older generation. This is just one example of being unconditionally devoted to the God we understand rather than being open (in an educated and prayerful way, of course) to the God that is.

    I really do believe that the answer lies in teaching good hermeneutics and exegesis of the Bible in an accessible way to our congregations, so that we are able to question and affirm as individuals and communities what we believe to be true and what is expendable. I commend your blog for it’s loving and critical appraisal.

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