If you know anything about him, the mere mention of Mark Driscoll‘s name will cause a reaction. For some, the response will be positive. For others, viscerally negative. He’s become a lightning rod in Christian culture–similar to yet different from Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell before him.
Driscoll is the pastor of Mars Hill Church here in Seattle. He started the new congregation during the mid-1990s and has made it his mission to minister to the emerging culture here in the hip, hip Pacific Northwest. Driscoll’s gone on record proclaiming that his mission is to proclaim the gospel in a way that is “theologically conservative yet culturally liberal.” It is as good a description as any for exactly what he’s been trying to do these past fifteen years.
When I first became aware of Mars Hill and Driscoll back in the 1990s, I was excited. He and his church were on the leading edge of how things were changing in the Church in ways cultural, musical, and (I thought) theological. After a flurry of personal excitement I sort of lost track of Driscoll and his church, only to rediscover them more fully about five years ago. Since Driscoll is a gifted preacher, I used to listen to some of his sermons while jogging.
And then? Well, then Driscoll became a big star–and the lightning rod he is today. There are things I never really knew about him that have come into sharp focus in the past year or so. The fact, for instance, that he does not support women in ministry (as a matter of fact he is pretty vehemently opposed). The fact that he seems to relish theological combat. The fact that he seems to be resurrecting a form of “muscular Christianity” the likes of which we haven’t seen for nearly a century. Driscoll can have a real “in your face” approach, and this doesn’t sit well with a lot of people–myself included.
Controversy has gone up a notch in the past few weeks. First, he’s released his new book Real Marriage, co-authored with his wife Grace. It is getting a lot of flak for its frank discussion of sex and purportedly sexist or misogynistic take on marriage. I’m currently reading it with an eye towards these issues and its potential use in a pastoral setting. More on that to come soon. Second, he was recently interviewed by a British Christian and, if the summation on this blog is to be believed (I have yet to listen to the entirely of the audio), he said some pretty mean and crassly fundamentalist things. The crux of a lot of what he was saying comes down to the following quotation. Though in itself a fairly orthodox point of argument, the way in which Driscoll uses this manly father image to justify and exemplify the entirety of his ministry and theological outlook is a bit disconcerting:
It does. It depends on your view of God. Is God like a mom who just embraces everyone? Or is he like a father who also protects, and defends, and disciplines? If you won’t answer the question, I think I know the answer.
Since I’m now a Seattlite (and an academically trained historian, ministry professor, and ordained minister), I feel that I ought to be addressing such matters more directly. I will be–on this blog and, perhaps, elsewhere. On one matter I’d like to be clear, though: Mark Driscoll is not the devil. He is a follower of Christ, and we are certainly brothers in Christ even though we may disagree on various issues. There is a lot I have to learn about Pastor Mark and, no doubt, a lot of areas in which we would find great comaraderie. But in other vital areas…disagree we do.