Mark Driscoll’s Wife Is His Pastor

As promised, I’ll be taking a look this week at Mark Driscoll’s new book, co-authored with his wife Grace: Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together.  Based on their years of experience ministering to young adults in the Seattle area, biblical and theological perspectives, cultural studies, and personal history, the book is a fascinating–and at times unexpected–look at marriage.

As I’ve referenced on this blog, Driscoll is rather controversial.  In many camps he is perceived to be a close-minded, misogynistic, bull-headed antagonist who tends to practice a macho scorched-earth pastoral policy with any who dare oppose him.  Just Google his name, and you’ll find more than you’ll ever want to know about him.

I’ll be honest; I don’t prefer Driscoll’s pastoral style…and there are few important issues on which disagree, more notably his perspective on women in ministry.  Considering how much flak he’s been getting for Real Marriage, I wondered if his book would enrage me. Somewhat surprising, then, that it didn’t.

As a book on marriage , its broad contours are rather solid.  I suspect that a majority of it would be acceptable to and helpful for all Americans, regardless of their religion or lack thereof.  About 75% of the book would be accepted with little problem by all Christians, and a full 90% of the book is within the broad stream of evangelicalism.  The other 10%?  Well, that’s where Driscoll gets too complementarian and macho on me.

For the most, part, then: I’m impressed.  So impressed that (with selective editing) I’d be happy to use this book as required reading in pre-marital counseling.

A look at two early sections:

In the first chapter, Mark & Grace share their stories, both as singles and a married couple.  It makes for interesting reading.  Their lives are anything but “plain Jane,” and they confess to significant marital issues even as Mark was beginning his meteoric rise as Mars Hill pastor in the 1990s.  To be sure, there is plenty of fodder for the Driscoll haters here, but in some ways it all depends on how you interpret what he’s saying.  When he writes about his dislike for his wife’s “short, mommish haircut” that “put a mom’s need for convenience before being a wife,” our hackles are naturally raised.  So too there are questions about Mark’s reaction to his wife’s (much later) confession of unfaithfulness during the early stages of their dating: in short, he would never had married her if he had known about it at the time.  Heady stuff.

If one takes this all as a sign of his continued perspective, I have some major issues.  If, however, all of this is meant to be an honest confession of sin and being generally “messed up” in the past, then I understand.  After all, the chapter does include the following thoughts:

“Through it all, we’ve learned a lot.  On a scale of 1 to 10, we’d say our marriage is somewhere around an 8+ or 9, when in years past is was a 3 or 4.  Writing this book has been an absolutely unifying and trust-building project by God’s grace.  We have a lot of fun as friends, and we get a lot done in life an ministry.”

Equally interesting is the second chapter, where Driscoll offers extended discussion of the essential idea that “marriage is about friendship.”  By focusing especially upon the story of Martin Luther and his wife, he paints a picture of marriage that is as helpful as it is needed.  I would submit that this chapter is worth the price of admission all by itself.  Most revealing is his statement about the intimate side of their marriage:

“Some years ago, I sat Grace down and told her that I really needed her to be my intimate friend and ‘functional pastor’…while we do not believe a women should be a pastor according to the Bible, I asked Grace to be my functional pastor.  As a pastor myself, I’ve never had a pastor since I left college.  So I invited Grace to be the one who checked in on my heart, prayed for me, gave me wise counsel, and knew the most intimate parts of my past and present as well as my longings and fears about the future.”

That, my friends, is certainly a different side to Driscoll than we often see.  There’s more to the book, and we’ll be taking a look at that in coming days.  But for now, I invite you to reconsider “just how bad” Mark Driscoll really is, and what insights into marriage he can truly offer.

Tomorrow, we’re back to politics.  But on Wednesday, a look at Mark Driscoll’s views on men & women in Real Marriage.

Saturday Remainders

A few random links for a Saturday afternoon:

1.  Things are heating up in South Carolina.  Is is possible my predictions about the Republican primaries are wrong?

2.  Teens desire intimacy, but not in ways you think sharing passwords as a sign of closeness.  An interesting piece of trivia, or something we should be pondering?

3.  Apple wants all of our textbooks to shift to e-textbooks.  Personally, I’ve made the transition to e-books with light reading and fiction, but I have a hard time doing so for academic texts.  Until there is a good way to annotate e-books (and textbooks), I’m not in favor.  This said, I’m sure there must be a good “app” either in existence or waiting in the wings?

And last but not least, this:

Le Morte D’arthur

A week of snow with no school .  A Netflix account.  You know where this is headed.  Having already watched through a vast majority of the “great” shows available on Netflix, I’m now resorting to those on a lower tier.  One of these is the BBC’s Merlin.

Essentially the Smallville-ification of the Arthur legend, Merlin presents the familiar cast of characters (Arthur, Guinevere, Morgana, Merlin, Lancelot) as their teenage selves, with all the angst and hijinks that entails.  Mordred’s just a little boy, and Arthur’s dad Uther Pendragon is played by Anthony Head–Giles of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame.  Fun.

The show is serviceable, although its truly great moments are sadly few and far between.  All the same, it has been a while since I spent any time in the world of Camelot…and I’m enjoying it.

I’ve been thinking, though, that no matter how good the show might become, there is a dark shadow of tragedy hanging over it.  We know how the story of Arthur ends.  We know the sad triangle of Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot.  We know Arthur will be killed by Mordred.  We know the glory of Camelot with be over in but the blink of an eye.  No matter how much excitement these teenage versions of the legend might have, we know what is waiting for them.

If I was getting too philosophical, I might say that this is a metaphor for life.  A call to enjoy the moments we are given as we have them.  A real Ecclesiastes-esque approach.

Beyond that, I’ve found that there is a clear youth ministry application here.  For people that regularly work with students, it is increasingly clear what the results of certain decisions and life paths will be.  With every passing year, I understand more and more how some of the choices we make at younger ages can have deep ripples and powerful repercussions throughout life.  Some of these can be good…but some can be terrible.  In other words, despite the gleaming Camelots students often think they are building, we who are older can see how these paths are headed for some pretty dark destinations. 

Unlike our friends on Merlin, the futures of the students under our care aren’t yet determined.  But getting them to see the destructive path they are on, helping them choose differently, and doing so without getting frustrated because they can’t see what is so clear to us…that’s the challenge.  This knowledge we have is the blessing and curse of working with teenagers.

Mark Driscoll: A Prolegomena

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.

"In one corner..."

Some Books For A Snowy Day

On this auspicious day of anti-SOPA protests, joshuaziefle.net is also blacking itself out.  Not so much because I’m protesting, but because I’ve got a lot of work to do on this snowy day in western Washington.  In my absence, I present: the “2012 Christianity Today Book Awards.”  Note the presence of a recent major release in the field of youth ministry and new Mark Noll book!

Tomorrow the first thoughts on Mark Driscoll in light of his continued controversy and new book on sex and marriage.

The Last Temptation of the Republicans

The South Carolina primary is coming up this Saturday February 21, and–as of yesterday–the Republican field has contracted to 5.  A look at the last remaining contenders or, as I heard on NPR, Mitt Romney and his four opponents:

  1. Rick Perry:  Enjoyed a surge in the polls after his late entry into the race.  A Texas conservative who’s tried to parlay his “Aw shucks” demeanor into a serious run at the White House.  His performance has been rather lackluster and in many ways he has come across as painfully dumb.  The popular image of George W. Bush was one of limited intelligence, and Rick Perry makes Bush look like a genius by comparison.
  2. Newt Gingrich:  For a time he too looked like a real choice in this contest…and in many ways he still is.  There are no questions about Newt’s intelligence or experience.  Just his stability.  Republicans may desire a strong conservative leader, but Gingrich comes across as too undisciplined and–shall I use the word?–maverick at times.  Plus, the motif of self-aggrandizement that seems to surround him speaks to a kind of nascent megalomania that concerns people.
  3. Rick Santorum: Rocketed from relative obscurity to the talk of the town thanks to his virtual tie with Mitt Romney in Iowa.  He’s the kind of conservative that social conservatives love…and everyone else looks at a little suspiciously.  He may do well in South Carolina, but I question his ability to succeed going forward.
  4. Ron Paul:  Maintains a large following, but not large enough to guarantee the Republican nomination.  People love his economic libertarianism, and young people are especially enthralled with Paul’s call to legalize marijuana and bring all of our troops home.  Paul is the real deal here: he believes what he says and would actually try to do it as president.  In the process, however, he comes off as a little crazy and far too radical for the mainstream of a basically center-right country.
  5. Last and certainly not least: Mitt Romney.  I am not endorsing any candidate–Republican or Democrat–but I will say this: Romney is the best remaining choice the Republicans have this year.  He comes off as robotic, calculated, aloof, and occasionally out of touch…but he’s their man.  He has the money to run a national campaign.  He’s been building the organization to do so for years.  He brings experience as a governor, organizer of the Salt Lake City Olympics, and successful businessman to the roundtable.  Though criticized for his “flip-flopping,” suspected cutthroat business practices, and occasional moderate tendencies…it may be just these things that help him to win in November and become a successful president.  To do so, however, he’s going to need to create a lot more enthusiasm than currently exists for the “robot Mormon opportunist” he appears to be for so many.  A solid vice-presidential choice may help with this…but that’s a conversation for another day.

The British Are Coming

I’m a little mixed up.  American as they come, deeply excited about my German heritage…and yet also a bit of an Anglophile. It’s the way they talk, I think.

Honestly–a proper British accent? Tell me it doesn’t make the person sound automatically smarter.  You know it’s true.

I spent a semester in London during college, and I suppose some of my UK love comes from there.  I also have a father who really likes English literature, so that doesn’t hurt.  And what young Christian doesn’t adore C. S. Lewis?

The greatest source of my attraction to the British intonation, however, comes from all those great  actors in the films and shows I love.  From a young age I heard Grand Moff Tarkin and Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars.  Captain Picard’s Shakespearean pronunciation was foundational for both my love of Star Trek and the “Sceptered Isle.”  Need I mention James Bond, The Lord of the Rings, Gaius Baltar from Battlestar Galactica, the or recent über-cool incarnation of Doctor Who?

Bow ties are cool.

Recent news promises more.  Much more.  I’ve long been a fan of Sherlock Holmes, and have especially liked the modern-day adaption the BBC is running.  It’s clever and interesting.  The actors are great…and now they’re getting their due in two large projects I’m sure to love:  The Hobbit and the sequel to J. J. Abram’s Star Trek.  Martin Freeman (Dr. Watson) will be playing Bilbo Baggins, while Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) will be the yet-to-be-determined villain facing off against James T. Kirk and company.

If the entertainment world desired to wean me from all things English, they’re certainly doing a poor job of it.  Where are the good old American Harrison Ford’s?  Where are the plethora of  quirky German actors ?  (Austrian Christolph Waltz excepted.)  Missing in action, it seems…and aptly covered by heroic Jedi, villainous bad guys, and–oh yes–faithful butlers to Dark Knights everywhere.