TWW’s Reflections on Driscoll at Mars Hill

I am writing with respect to Dee’s post here.

First, a little of my background.

While I joined an Acts 29 church in 2008, I was never a Driscoll fanboi. At the time, I only knew a little about Driscoll, and had no idea he was behind Acts 29. Where I lived, that was one of the few decent churches, and some of my friends went there. They seemed pretty solid theologically, and were relatively laid-back in their style.

After we got engaged, MrsLarijani watched many Driscoll sermons online. She was trying to get a feel for Acts 29. She liked most of what she saw.

As for me, I’m not high on the celebrity preacher circuit and never have been. I like John Piper and Tim Keller, for example; at the same time I do not fawn on their every word either. I do not listen to their sermons regularly, although I have read a few of their books.

Fast-forward about 10 years.

Driscoll is long gone from Mars Hill. Mars Hill is itself long gone.

Having read a share of Driscoll’s work, I have reached some conclusions about him:

(1) I do not classify Driscoll as a NeoCal, at least not in theological terms. I am not sure that he’s really that “Reformed” in his theological leanings. Mohler? Definitely. Mahaney? You bet. Chandler? Most certainly. Piper? Yes. Keller? Maybe. (He’s PCA Presbyterian, so he’s more of an old-school Calvinist.)

But Driscoll? The only thing “NeoCal” about him is his approach to church discipline, and even in his case that might be a stretch: he wasn’t working according to any particular NeoCal playbook; his case was simply what happens when leaders are accountable to no one. Many of his elders were poorly-trained and had no idea how to apply Scripture properly.

(This was the same dynamic that forced Matt Chandler to apologize to a woman who was wrongly disciplined for seeking to end a marriage to a husband caught downloading child porn.)

(2) While I am not in agreement with some of Driscoll’s interpretation of Esther and The Song of Solomon–I do not think Esther was a slut but was rather in a lose-lose situation–I cannot say that his hermeneutical approach was bad. In the sermons I’ve watched, his preaching was good. One year, I attended an Act Like Men conference in Indianapolis, and Driscoll was one of the speakers. Nothing he said was controversial at all.

(3) Driscoll’s failings were not theological, but rather a failure to apply his stated theology to himself. This is a danger with every leader: when leaders–particularly ones that attract large followings–are not accountable (i.e., the rules don’t apply to them), you have all the ingredients for disaster.

(4) Driscoll’s record on sex is mixed. While he is too libertine by my standards, that’s not my issue with him. He seemed, however, to devote way too much time to the subject. Was this due to an obsession on his part? Was this due to so many folks at Mars Hill being mired in the hypersex culture of online porn, fetishes, and assorted perversions? I don’t know, as I cannot answer for Driscoll. But yes, it did seem that he had a fixation on the matter.

(5) Did he plagiarize? I dunno. He definitely did not do the best job in the world footnoting. That would have, at the very least, earned him the loss of a letter grade in an academic setting. His biggest sin in that area, however, is not the alleged plagiarism but rather the use of deceptive tactics to market his books.

(6) Is Driscoll a misogynist? I dunno. That terms gets thrown around any time someone makes tough statements about women. There was a period in his life during which he had marital problems. During that time, he said some things that were overly harsh about the opposite sex. Is that misogyny or just a season in which his attitude was bad? He should have refrained from preaching about women during that time, or taken a sabbatical. But, from what I’ve read and what I’ve heard from him, I would not categorize him as a misogynist.

Ultimately, Driscoll had to go. It isn’t that his theology wasn’t up to snuff, nor is this about incendiary e-mails he sent under pseudonyms 17 years ago.

In Driscoll’s case, it is about a pattern of conduct that reflects (a) a lack of maturity that is unbecoming of a minister of the Gospel, (b) dubious judgment, evidenced by his crashing a John MacArthur event, (c) heavyhanded leadership tactics–including abusive practices–that are incongruent with the Biblical criteria for would-be church leaders, and (d) potential financial malfeasance.

I would suggest that, unless and until he can show that he has resolved those issues, he has no business in the ministry.

5 thoughts on “TWW’s Reflections on Driscoll at Mars Hill

    • After reading some of his books, and listening to some of his sermons, and discussing matters with some folks that had interviews with him, I think it’s a little more complex than that.

      A lot of what he preached was aimed at a particular audience: Mars Hill, Seattle. If ever any place was Ground Zero for Metrosexual Wussyville, that is probably it. Unfortunately, because he did not qualify what he was saying, a lot of men–myself included–took significant offense at that.

      To his credit, unlike others in the pastoral ranks, Driscoll classified romance novels as porn. (The Boundless folks, including Ted–who was often on our side in more ways than he was allowed to say–were very slow to recognize that.) While he definitely had a tendency to smack the men around more than the ladies, I’m not sure that I would peg him in the misandry camp. In his background, he had to deal with more abusive men than women.

      (Most pastors reflect that experience, because male victims don’t generally go to their pastors.)

      Like I said, what did him in wasn’t so much his theology but rather his questionable practices, which included heavyhanded, unaccountable leadership, deceptive marketing practices with respect to his books, and potential financial malfeasance.

      There is at least one pending lawsuit regarding the latter, and–if that one hits the fan–Driscoll could be in a world of hurt.

      • I agree. What I mean though is that its a more closer description than misogyny.

        He has other questionable sermons like treating unwed single moms the same as widows:
        https://dalrock.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/dont-overlook-single-mothers/

        And I agree that its his questionable practices that did him in. But I argue that his theology is already suspect even if he didn’t have those questionable behaviors. As I have already linked to from above

        And if I should use the military example:
        A superior officer dressing down a subordinate officer in front of his charges is bad for all levels of leadership in the organization. Junior members who are led by the subordinate and respect his leadership may now question their judgement about the subordinate, or will question the judgement of the senior leader in reprimanding his subordinate in public. Subordinates who were already defiant will become more rebellious in many cases. It generates significant confusion and doubt in the entire leadership chain, and makes leading very difficult at all levels. In addition, its very tough (if not impossible) to walk it back, unless personnel are replaced (costly these days.)

        That was the problem with Mark Driscoll’s approach.

        • Definitely. And yes, if anything, a strong case could be made that he was more prone to misandry than misogyny. I don’t think he was either.

          Honestly, I think he was/is more of an AMOG.

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