In my previous post Mark Driscoll came under the microscope . . . or maybe it was a macroscope. Whatever it was, Driscoll certainly cuts an enigmatic figure on the church landscape of America. Classical reformed theology coupled with culture savvy hipness, a conservative Calvinist who labors hard at assimilating with his surrounding culture. Conservatives shudder when he talks about sex, emergents choke on their lattes when he brands them heretics. The jury is out on just where he fits but he has certainly struck a chord with the large unchurched youth sub-culture in Seattle. And they don’t get no sissy boy preaching when it comes to the Gospel – it’s just that Driscoll seems to charge into every subject with candor and fervor including subjects more likely to feature on Jerry Springer than in a local church.
And then John Macarthur weighed into the debate commending Mark for his theology and chastising him for crossing the line on pulpit decency. Initially I thought that maybe Macarthur was being a bit too uptight. But as I became more aware of the trends among young conservative preachers it certainly set off an alarm bell. It seems that if Driscoll takes an inch (some would contend a very big inch) there are others who’ll take a mile. There is definitely a growing trend of cussing, coarse jesting, and x-rated material emanating from pulpits.
I can recall an old pastor of mine once warning me about what he called “carnality poker”. You know the situation, guys sharing jokes try to outdo each other leading to a downward spiral in decency that spins out of control leaving everyone with little or no grasp of where the boundaries lie. I have fallen prey to this myself at times and can recall sessions that began with good natured joking and rapidly escalated into a clear breach of Ephesians 5:4 (Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.) When you are in the midst of the stupor, all discernment can go out the window. I think this may be what is playing a large part in this escalation of “potty mouth” pastors. Macarthur’s initial warnings had a lot more substance than I initially thought.
When I started to take a closer look at this controversy one of my first ports of call was reading the many various quotes by Driscoll that have ruffled feathers. I must confess that I am absolutely shocked at some of the stuff he has spoken, very freely I might add, about. He has not only crossed the boundaries of decency, he has ventured a long way into that territory. I am simply at a loss as to why such a fine preacher like Mark Driscoll would even want to discuss a lot of this stuff. Why Mark why??? Please listen to wise shepherds like John Macarthur who have your interests and the wider body of Christ at heart. Their length and quality of labor in the church demands your audience. There is a truth war that needs to be fought over the Gospel and we don’t need to be distracted by this skirmish.
I have refrained from quoting in these last two posts for two reasons:
1. I love all the people mentioned dearly and do not want to delve into the verbal sparring.
2. Some of the quotes I simply cannot repeat in all good conscience.
This controversy looms large on the evangelical landscape. Phil Johnson deemed it necessary to devote a whole one hour sermon addressing it at the recent Shepherd’s Conference. This sermon is well worth the listen because it is quite likely to be an issue that many of us will encounter in the near future. This sermon also caused plenty of controversy and not everyone in the audience was a “happy camper”. But Johnson lays it all out very clearly – where the boundaries are, what the repercussions are, and what is at stake.
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