Standing up to the "bully" Mark Driscoll

Mark DriscollRachel Held Evans writes Mark Driscoll is a bully. Stand up to him:

Mark Driscoll is wrong. 

Godly men stick up for people, not make fun of them.

Godly men honor women, not belittle them.

Godly men love their gay and lesbian neighbors, not ridicule them.

Godly men celebrate femininity, not trash it.

Godly men own their sexuality, not flaunt it.

Godly men pursue peace, not dismiss it.

Godly men rise above violence, not glorify it.

Godly men build up the Church, not embarrass it.

Godly men imitate Christ—who praised the gentle and the peacemakers, who stood up for the exploited and abused, who showed compassion for the downtrodden,  who valued women, and who loved his enemies to the point of death.

This was prompted mainly by what Driscoll wrote on Facebook:

So, what story do you have about the most effeminate anatomically male worship leader you’ve ever personally witnessed?

But the links Rachel offers show that she has collected a lot more evidence that Driscoll is a bully. She concludes:

Mark’s bullying is unacceptable.

Stop talking about it and do something.

Yes, but what can we do? Sadly I don’t think it will help much to join Rachel’s campaign requesting the elders of Driscoll’s church to take action against him. The website of Mars Hill Church states that

Pastor, Elder, and Overseer are all synonymous terms in the Bible

and names three “Executive Elders”, the first of whom is the “Preaching and Vision Pastor” who is none other than Mark Driscoll. The other two, the “Executive Pastor” and the “Mars Hill Network Pastor”, are surely Driscoll’s personal proteges and are very unlikely to turn against him on this matter.

But if we can mobilise a tide of public opinion against this kind of bullying, maybe we can persuade leaders whom Driscoll does respect, like John Piper, to have a word with him and rein him in. Piper was a guest preacher at Mars Hill Church last year. But he has not been afraid to rebuke Driscoll publicly before, on a rather trivial matter. Now is the time for Piper to rebuke Driscoll again. I’m not saying this needs to be public. But if it is not, Piper needs to keep an eye on Driscoll to make sure he stays within acceptable bounds. He should also try to obtain what even the macho Mark has been known to offer in the past: a public apology.

Rachel is right that we need to do something about this. But in this case the best thing to do about it is to talk and write about it.

Thanks to Joel and Scott for the link to Rachel’s post.

Raised with Christ: Review part 1

I thank Adrian Warnock and his publishers, Crossway, for sending me a complimentary copy for review of Adrian’s new book Raised with Christ: How the Resurrection Changes Everything. Long time readers of this blog will know that I have had many disagreements with Adrian. But I am very pleased that he has put his Bible knowledge and his sharp mind to good use in writing about the neglected subject of the resurrection and its implications.

Anyway, I had better be nice to Adrian as, in an endorsement on the cover, Mark Driscoll calls him “my friend”. I wouldn’t want to meet Mark Driscoll on a dark night after being nasty to one of his friends! 😉

I propose to review this book in a number of posts, as I read through it. So far I have read the Foreword by Terry Virgo, the Preface, and the introductory Chapter 1.

In the Preface Adrian notes that he writes “as an ordinary Christian, and not a theologian” (p.15). Indeed he writes for a popular audience. But of course that is no excuse for making theological errors. I suppose I wonder, as I start reading, how well he will do, without formal theological training, at avoiding doctrinal pitfalls. Well, I will see – and point out in this review anything serious that I find.

Here is how Adrian starts chapter 1:

“WHAT! DID JESUS COME BACK to life again?” This was the surprised reaction when a young Englishwoman heard about the resurrection of Jesus. (p.19)

It is indeed amazing that a woman, old enough to be a mother and living in a country so full of Christians, could be so ignorant of basic Christian teaching.

She hadn’t rejected the gospel. No one had ever told her about it! (p.19)

Well, indeed. But perhaps she had heard a presentation of the gospel not including the resurrection. Such presentations are produced not only by liberal Christians who have doubts about the resurrection, but also by good conservative evangelicals who strongly affirm its truth – but only when someone else brings up the subject!

See for example this version of The Bridge – A Gospel Illustration, attributed to Bill Hybels & Mark Mittelberg, which mentions Jesus “coming to earth as one of us, and dying on the cross to pay the death penalty we owed”, but not his resurrection. Someone could be taken through this presentation and told that they had become a Christian, “immediately adopted into His family as His son or daughter”, without hearing even a word about the resurrection.

Adrian continues his first chapter by explaining “HOW THIS BOOK CAME TO BE WRITTEN”:

I was asked to preach on Easter Sunday 2007. … Preachers don’t often talk about how they decide what to speak about. … I woke suddenly in the night. A simple phrase was burning in my mind: “Adrian, preach about the resurrection.” (p.21)

I must say I am amazed. In what other Christian tradition would it take a voice from God (at least that’s what Adrian implies this was) to get a preacher to choose the resurrection as his or her sermon topic for Easter Sunday? Some of us Anglicans may not have much to say on the subject, but at least it is the default theme on this one Sunday of the year. One wonders whether in New Frontiers (Adrian’s church grouping) this doctrine ever gets a mention, barring divine intervention.

Adrian goes on to consider the current state of the church, which he sees as “general decline” but with “many encouraging signs”. I would agree. I might not agree on exactly which signs are encouraging, but I do accept the one example Adrian names: Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church in Seattle. However, I have a problem with how Adrian divides the churches which are attracting growing numbers of younger people into “Two distinct groups”:

One group, calling itself the “emerging church,” is willing to change everything about church to better fit in with postmodern, informal, twenty-first century culture. By some, even the message is adapted for increased appeal.

The second group, the “young, restless, and reformed,” is also willing to change many aspects of church organization, worship meetings, and the style of music. However, they seek, if anything, a more traditional message than their parents … (p.25)

It is clear that Adrian prefers the latter group. But I wonder if it is helpful to make this kind of distinction. If we leave aside those by whom “the message is adapted”, whether “for increased appeal” or just to be “more traditional”, what really is the difference between a relatively conservative “emerging church” and one like Driscoll’s Mars Hill? They would probably disagree about women in leadership, but not much else. Is this the unmentioned shibboleth which separates Adrian’s two groups?

Anyway, if Adrian is writing primarily to those who neglect the resurrection in a misguided attempt to hold to “a more traditional message than their parents”, then I can only wish him well, and hope that his readers understand that their message needs to be not so much “more traditional” as closer in its overall balance to the teaching of the New Testament.

Continued in part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8 and conclusion.

"God hates sinners": John Piper does believe this

Pam BG has brought up again an issue which was discussed here several months ago, that some Christians are preaching that “God hates sinners”. She has mentioned this initially, I think, in some comments on John Meunier’s blog, and has also brought it up in a comment on her own blog and in several comments on mine. I will dignify this important issue by giving it a post of its own.

This is what Pam originally wrote on John’s blog:

I’ve recently done some research into atonement theory and there is definitely a divide in the current on-going debates.

It’s a divide between those who say that God’s primary characteristic is love and those who say that God’s primary characteristic is holiness. The former is, in my view, much more biblical.

Those who think that God’s primary characteristic is love believe that God hates sin and loves sinners (e.g. Steve Chalke and Tom Wright). Those who think that God’s primary characteristic is his holiness believe that God hates sin and hates sinners too (e.g. John Piper and books written by various individuals at Oak Hill College in the UK).

Those who think that God’s primary characteristic is love see the Gospel message as ‘The Kingdom of God is coming. God’s justice will reign in his kingdom.’ Those who think that God’s primary characteristic is holiness think that the Gospel message is ‘The sins of individual people are expiated through the propitiating work of Christ.’

I think that these views are almost irreconcilably different. I also think that ‘God loves sinners and hates sin and calls his disciples to a life of justice in the Kingdom’ is both a biblical message and a message that is historically in line with Methodism.

Here is my reply, edited with my later clarification:

Pam, is it possible to believe that both holiness and love are God’s primary characteristics? In fact holiness is certainly primary in the sense of having been revealed first, in the Hebrew Bible, and repeated in the New Testament.

But I certainly believe that God loves sinners. Anyone who denies that is denying John 3:16 and, I would judge, denying an essential point of the Christian faith. So basically I agree with you here – although we may not fully agree on which particular types of activity count as sin, i.e. what God hates.

Pam also made a claim that

Piper and the authors of ‘Pierced for Our Transgressions’ – as examples – do explicitly state that God hates sinners. ‘PFOT’ also states that it is God who damns people and who creates their punishment. These concepts were stated in so many words in their books, but you do have to dig for them!

I questioned, in comments my own blog, whether Piper has in fact stated this explicitly. An anonymous commenter on Pam’s blog took this further:

I have read John Pipers books and he has NEVER said God hates sinners as well as sin.

Has this person in fact read every word Piper has ever written, and listened to every one of his sermons? Clearly not – see below. The only person who could say such a dogmatic “NEVER” is Piper himself. But I think that when Pam actually did the digging she referred to she could not find evidence for her claim, as later she largely withdrew it, on her own blog and on mine, although not as yet on John Meunier’s. On her own blog she wrote:

To be transparent, Piper said that the work of the cross is to change God’s attitude from ‘completely against us’ to ‘completely for us’. On p. 184 [which book, Pam?], Piper writes that the purpose of the atonement is that God, as our Father, might be completely for us and not against us forever.

In reply to this I wrote that, even if Piper may not say “God hates sinners”, his friend Mark Driscoll certainly did, as I discussed here a few months ago. As reported by Alastair Roberts (see also Adrian Warnock’s report of the same sermon), Driscoll said

Here is what propitiation is: GOD HATES SINNERS. You’ve been told that God loves the sinner but hates the sin. No he doesn’t: Ghandi says that, just so you know, he’s on a totally different team than us.

What would Piper say to that, I wonder? Would he still “not have .001 seconds hesitation in having Mark Driscoll come back tomorrow to our church or our conference”?

But in fact if Pam digs a bit deeper she will find what she is looking for. Michael Bräutigam from Germany, commenting on Justin Taylor’s blog, offered this quote from John Piper, which in fact comes from a 1985 sermon on Piper’s own website:

Yes, I think we need to go the full Biblical length and say that God hates unrepentant sinners. If I were to soften it, as we so often do, and say that God hates sin, most of you would immediately translate that to mean: he hates sin but loves the sinner. But Psalm 5:5 says, “The boastful may not stand before thy eyes; thou hatest all evildoers.” And Psalm 11:5 says, “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and his soul hates him that loves violence.

Michael also quotes Calvin, but finds in him a much more carefully nuanced message:

Before we were reconciled to God, he both hated and loved us.

Maybe that is a better way to say it. But better still, in my opinion, is the way it is put in words misattributed to Gandhi, who apparently did not use the word “love”:

Hate the sin, and love the sinner.

Driscoll may have been unaware of this, but in fact these words apparently come from the great Christian writer Augustine, centuries earlier, who, according to Wikipedia with a citation from Migne’s authoritative Patrilogiae Latinae, wrote:

“Love the sinner and hate the sin” (Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum) (Opera Omnia, vol II. col. 962, letter 211.), literally “With love for mankind and hatred of sins “

Yes, “love the sinner and hate the sin” should be our attitude because it is also God’s attitude as demonstrated to us by Jesus.

Driscoll's Horrible Histories

Dave Warnock (no relation to Adrian) has posted on What Driscoll really said about God and hate, partly in response to my own post on the matter, whose title, in the sincerest form of flattery no doubt, he has simply copied.

Alastair, in an update to his original post, gave links to audio files of three of Driscoll’s talks from his visit to Edinburgh:

But I note that the talks from the MenMakers conference are not available online, at least not from this site. These include the second talk on which I posted, the one in which, according to Adrian, Driscoll said a single man “cannot fully reflect God”.

Unlike me, Dave has in fact listened to one of Driscoll’s talks, the one on sex. He writes:

An interesting review of Church History, more akin to the Horrible Histories genre than anything else I have heard. … This is definitely not something you want to listen to if you are a single man.

Well, in that case, as a single man, I won’t listen to it, I will just recommend that you read Dave’s not exactly positive response. “Horrible Histories” indeed! I will copy that line, to flatter Dave.

What Driscoll really said about God and hate

Thanks to Alastair Roberts, who was there and has presumably now transcribed a recording, we can now read what Mark Driscoll really had to say at the Edinburgh conference about God and hate, as part of his talk on the atonement. Previously we had to rely on Adrian Warnock’s summary of his words. And it turns out that Adrian’s summary was rather misleading.

Continue reading

"Children of wrath" and a puzzle over Calvinism

I have been following, and occasionally contributing to, an interesting comment thread on Alastair Roberts’ post Does God Love or Hate You? This discussion arose out of my own post about Mark Driscoll’s teaching “God hates you”. In comments today on Alastair’s post the issue has come up of what it what it means to be “children of wrath”, the traditional wording at Ephesians 2:3.

I realised that there is something puzzling about the meaning of this phrase. This is basically a Hebrew idiom, “children of …” meaning “people characterised by …”. More fully, a literal translation is “by nature children of wrath” (RSV). TNIV interprets as “by nature deserving of wrath”. But Alastair seems to understand the phrase as meaning “destined for wrath”.

The puzzle is what this means, especially for those who take a Calvinist position. For this phrase is a description not of unbelievers, but of the past state of the believers to whom the letter is addressed. So Calvinists, who believe that God predestined and foreknew that these people would become believers, can hardly understand the phrase as meaning “destined for wrath”. Continue reading

Driscoll: Single men "cannot fully reflect God"

The issue I was trying to raise in my rejected comment on Adrian Warnock’s post has been ignored in the discussion which has raged about it. But it is an important issue. Here is part of what Mark Driscoll said at the MenMakers conference in Edinburgh, as reported by Adrian:

The only thing that was described as “not good” before the fall was man being alone. Some single guys are strange, and what they need is a woman. There is nothing that sanctifies a man like a woman can sanctify him. Many young men run away from responsibility and think being alone is good. This is not true. The difference between a man and a boy is the responsibilities they carry. You need help! …

God is not alone. He is trinitarian. Man does not have that relationship in himself. He cannot fully reflect God unless he has someone alongside him—namely a woman. …

So, according to Driscoll, we single men are “strange”, irresponsible, boys rather than men, and, most damagingly of all, unable to fully reflect God. Now I can understand him coming to this conclusion from reading the Old Testament. Indeed it seems to have been the majority Jewish view, both in Jesus’ time and today, that men are fulfilled only in marriage. But in the New Testament we see a very different picture. So, no wonder I wrote

Looks like Driscoll has not read 1 Corinthians 7:25-32, or noticed that Jesus was not married. Come to think of it, looks like Driscoll has not read the New Testament at all, except perhaps for isolated verses, …

If, as Driscoll teaches, a single man “cannot fully reflect God”, then what does that imply for his view of Jesus? Is he not “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15)? In principle, as shown here, Driscoll accepts that Jesus should be an example for Christians, that

Being spirit-filled means living the life of Jesus.

But why is it not Spirit-filled but rather irresponsible and not reflecting God to follow Jesus’ example of singleness?

Within the Christian church there has always been an ambivalence towards marriage. Continue reading

Adrian censors criticism of one of his idols

I tried to post this comment on Adrian Warnock’s blog, in response to his post on Mark Driscoll at the Menmakers conference in Scotland:

Looks like Driscoll has not read 1 Corinthians 7:25-32, or noticed that Jesus was not married. Come to think of it, looks like Driscoll has not read the New Testament at all, except perhaps for isolated verses, for his “gospel”, as seen here and in the previous post about him, seems to leave humanity fallen and sinful with God hating them.

Charity, the basis for the argument you mention is a dubious translation of Genesis 5:2 which was new in the RSV.

Adrian, who has recently reintroduced comment moderation on his blog, refused to publish this comment because I dared to suggest that Driscoll might not have read the whole New Testament.

Well, first he doesn’t seem to have realised that this is very obvious hyperbole, rhetorical exaggeration. My real point is of course that Driscoll is ignoring most of the New Testament in his teaching. Perhaps I could have got away with writing that. But I am not going to allow Adrian to determine what literary style I can use in response to his blogging. If he doesn’t want my response on his blog, he can have it here, and I will send him a link.

But what this really shows is Adrian’s hyper-sensitivity, so typical of Reformed Evangelicals, to any criticism of their favourite preachers. It is not that they are sensitive to critical comments in general. They seem quite happy to accuse well known Christian teachers from different strands of preaching another gospel or blasphemy. So they can’t claim that they dislike criticism because it is not showing Christian charity. No, instead they seem to react like fundamentalists of some religion who hear their gods being criticised. For it seems to me that favourite preachers like Piper and Driscoll have become idols in the minds of certain people, who treat their words as infallible and beyond criticism, and react intemperately to anyone who disagrees on this.