Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mark Driscoll is Not a Heretic, He's Just a Very Naughty Preacher (Part 1)

One of the red hot debates - and I mean RED HOT - among those in the conservative reformed camp, centres around Seattle preacher Mark Driscoll. The blogosphere seems to be raging in debate. Volleys of "friendly fire" are hurtling back and forth as a wide variety of sound biblical thinkers take sides and stances.

The subject of the debate concerns the boundaries of decency and appropriateness when speaking from the pulpit as well as the legitimacy of contextualization as an integral part of mission endeavor (I'll be expanding on these tomorrow). The issues at stake here extend well beyond Driscoll but he has certainly become the poster boy/villain at the centre of the storm.

From the outset I want to say how much I love much of Mark Driscoll's preaching/teaching ministry. One of my favorite sermons (it is on my website) was preached by Mark at the Desiring God conference in 2006. But his raw and racy preaching have landed him a reputation as "the potty mouth preacher". This has probably been misleading for many as there is a wide perception out there that Driscoll is a preacher who regularly cusses. Though I haven't heard every sermon by Mark I have never heard the use of expletives in his material. The potty mouth label is actually more directed at his willingness to tackle what some might call x-rated subject matter.

I must confess that this subject matter and occasional locker room humor can make me nervous when listening to Driscoll and does give me great cause for concern. Here is a sample of the rollercoaster emotional experience I can go through when listening to a Mark Driscoll sermon:

"Amen preach it brother . . . wow that was profound exposition . . . ohh he got a bit irreverent with that comment, oh well . . . yeeeahhh stomp on the head of that heretic, way to go Mark . . . did he just say what I thought he said??? Naaah couldn't have possibly meant . . . man this guy is funny! . . . should I be laughing at this? . . . no Mark, don't do it, don't go there, please leave it alone, no don't, arrgghh! why did he talk about that . . . where's my medication? . . . great, he's back on the text, bloodpressure lowering, feeling better, will give Mark Driscoll the benefit of the doubt, amen brother Mark . . . hang on just a second did he just make a joke out of that . . . but he's so orthodox and what about that reformed theology . . . I get the feeling he's watching a bit too much Simpsons and South Park . . . but he's on our side . . . no Mark no, please don't do it, just throw that Song of Solomon sermon series in the shredder and nobody gets hurt and we can all go home"!

Mark lives in Seattle which is one of the most unchurched cities in America - certainly not Bible belt. Undoubtedly this presents challenges that a pastor in Dallas may not face (at least on the same scale). We're talking about a lot of young people with no biblical literacy or Christian heritage. Staring at this scenario Driscoll has taken it upon himself to become very culture savvy whilst remaining with a very tight grip on biblical orthodoxy and delivering thumping sermons loaded with reformed theology.

He looks like a night club security guy (you know, the guy with big biceps and the optional neck . . . but he didn't take the option). Mark is acutely aware of the surrounding pop culture and loads up his sermons with a wide variety of illustrations based on what is current and hip - he calls it contextualization but his critics call it worldliness. What sets him apart from the myriad of cool wannabe seeker sensitive pastors with mullets, soul patches, and untucked shirts is that he is very sharp and uncompromising when it comes to biblical doctrine and not afraid to label a heretic. He is certainly no sissy boy - a manly man if you like - and would not look out of place beating up Rob Bell for his lunch money.

When it comes to church eldership Mark says hasta la vista ladies - men only! He certainly isn't backward coming forward on this issue as Bill Hybels and the gender neutral folk at Willow Creek found out. When approached about making a church planting video for their annual conference at Willow Creek, Mark obliged in true Driscoll style. To say that people got offended would be an understatement. This is the video and it is definitely worth the look because it really encapsulates the Mark Driscoll persona.

Is it wrong that I find myself cheering? I really want to like Mark. I rejoice that he preaches the Gospel. On the issue of contextualization I can see both sides of the argument and perhaps we can all extend some grace. But has Mark Driscoll crossed the line of decency with some of his subject matter. Unfortunately, I think he has, and tomorrow I'll tell you why!

Continued tomorrow

Go On To Part 2


René Vester said...

Well Cam I agree on much here. It's true that Driscoll have some good theology. But his fruits isn't good. His "Porn again Christian" stuff is an abomination. His sayings about masturbation where he use biblical statements like "what youre right hand is doing, do it with all of your heart and all of your stregth" is awful. He's preachings in the Chrystal Cathedral and fellowship with Rick Warren makes me wanna say "no way Driscall, I cannot hear you anymore. Not before you repent from this road and go back to preach and live the word of God, and doesn't try to be hip among the smart and famous guys".

Robb Goodell said...

First of all, as a reply to the last poster...that quote was taken way out of fact, Mark was saying that that verse had been used as condoning masturbation by one of the young men in his church and he was explaining the fallacy in using that verse for masturbation. In fact, Mark preaches against masturbation as a form of subjugation to lust. As far as the fellowship with certain pastors and preaching in certain places...Mark NEVER steps down from the issues, nor does he ever compromise on what he knows to be true. If I could preach in the Crystal Cathedral, I would, only to preach the truth of the word of God where it needs to be preached. I hope he gets in with Osteen as well...get them ALL riled up. People need to understand things from a bigger picture instead of throwing up a red flag every time something intrudes upon their "righteousness". I'm not saying Pastor Mark is sinless or holy, but come on, guys...are you stepping up and preaching?

Cameron Buettel said...

Thanks for your post Rob. Did you find my posts concerning Mark fair and even handed? I really do like the guy and am hopeful for the best. But I do sincerely believe that he is crossing the line as far as decency goes on several occasions. I would love for him and Macarthur to get together and have discuss the issue. I'm not saying that Macarthur is always right but the guy does have wisdom, experience, and an outstanding grasp of Scripture. I would love for Mark to take his counsel and steer clear of some subject matter that just isn't necessary to speak about in the way he sometimes does.

Anonymous said...

I've gotta say, if the "Porn Again Christian" stuff doesn't apply to you, great. But it is good material for the vast majority of young, Christian men out there who, unfortunately, are slaves to lust in many forms (most commonly Internet porn and masturbation).

For years the church has skirted around the issue of sexual sin. Sexual sin is addressed, but in hushed, reserved tones with fear of being "inappropriate" or "irreverent". If you're concerned that talking about sexual sin openly and honestly is going to cause Christian men to stumble, I've got news for you... Christian men are already stumbling! This is where secrecy and "decency" has gotten us...

Driscoll is a man's preacher. I'll admit, I can totally relate to the "rollercoaster emotional experience"... maybe to a slightly lesser extent, but I've definately caught myself laughing at times and going, "is this guy for real"? Fact is, God is using this man to reach a group of lost people that John MacArthur and the like couldn't BEGIN to touch! That isn't meant in any way to disrespect MacArthur... it's just that I believe God transcends all this stuff... including our understanding of proper methods to minister. It's clear God will do whatever it takes, and use whomever he has to in order to reach the lost.

"But his fruits isn't good"?!?! Are you serious? I'd like to see how the poster defines 'fruits that is good'. Through Mars Hill's ministry, young men and women are repenting, being saved, being baptised, and entering a Christian community which is committed to holding true to God's word and reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is good fruit.

Cameron, I thought your review was fair. Driscoll pushes the limits of what SOME consider "appropriate" at times. He isn't for everyone. But he's a wise and God-fearing man who loves Jesus and loves the Bible. Anyone who says otherwise has no clue. He is a servent of God and has committed his life to bringing God glory and doing WHATEVER it takes, short of sin, to lead people to Christ. I deeply respect that.

Your brother in Christ,

Russ from Connecticut said...

I know this is 3 years old but two things I noticed in this video, and to clarify I'm not a Mark Driscoll fan, is that Driscoll doesn't even mention Jesus until the 7:10 mark and when he does he talks about Him its as if Jesus is a retired cage fighter. This just reeks of human arrogance and not scriptural humility. Just mho.