Thursday, April 30, 2009

Driscoll TGC 2009 impressions

Just finished listening to Mark Driscoll's talk at the The Gospel Coalition 2009, and here are my thoughts:

  1. He said some good things.
  2. Wow. Dude really does think he's a martyr. I mean seriously.
  3. If I were a young guy, hanging on every word and earnestly purposing to do everything Driscoll was saying... I'd be completely lost at sea. So many of the things he said just tangled back up on themselves. I'd have to have a transcript to illustate extensively. But I remember kind of chuckling when Driscoll was talking about "those people who say 'Thank you God that I'm not like those people!'" Yes, well, indeed; thank God we're not like those people who thank God they're not like those people! Because that would be bad!
  4. I honestly wonder whether Driscoll knew how much he contradicted himself, just in the course of the talk. Or is that why he kept saying he did those bad things, too? Or was that a device to make it okay for him to say it? I really don't know.
  5. I honestly think, in those young shoes, I'd have ended up with, "Well, I guess I just have to be Mark Driscoll. Because he's the only one who gets right what matters, what doesn't matter, when to 'throw down,' when to 'peace out'... and then say he repents, periodically. And do it some more. But everybody else is wrong! Everyone else is too doctrinal about the wrong things, too undoctrinal about the right things, too strident, too passive, too fixated, too limp...."
  6. Does Driscoll listen to himself? Does he like what he hears?
  7. Meaning no snark whatever, I think I would think, "Wow. Do I really want to sound just like those guys in Comedy Central?" I say "no snark," because maybe he does. I heard somewhere that he learned how to communicate from comedians. Maybe he thinks they're the ones who know how to connect with people, and that's his model. So, IOW, maybe he does want to sound exactly like them. Because he pretty much does.
  8. Even worse, I really think I'd wonder if I really want to think like those guys on Comedy Central. Because a lot of the things Driscoll said were just cute. Period. Plus nothing. They were laugh-lines. Think about them for two seconds, ask one serious question, they collapse.
  9. You can't not see the Driscoll/Johnson/MacArthur interchange in the background. Driscoll means us to, clearly. "Rapist." Yeah, that was subtle, Mark. And he means us to believe that he's really, really, really trying to be a good boy and suffer for Jesus. But I have to say: just not buying. It felt a more like venting, to make himself feel better. One Dan's opinion.
  • Driscoll talks a lot about repenting and all. Phil Johnson asked him, "Of what, specifically?" Is it a good thing that Driscoll never answered Phil? Specifically?
  • Driscoll and apologists seem to (try to) make a lot of the fact that John MacArthur didn't pick up the phone and ask Driscoll out to Starbucks or an Ultimate Fight game or something. Even granting that (which I don't) — then why didn't Driscoll do what he thought Phil or MacArthur shouldn't have done? Isn't that Matthew 7:12-y, and 1 Peter 3:9-ish? Piper's a significant voice, but MacArthur isn't? Johnson isn't? Why couldn't Driscoll have picked up the phone and asked MacArthur or Johnson out to... to whatever, if that's the way he thinks it has to be done? Is ignoring the specific pleas and concerns, and playing the martyr, a better way to "make the Gospel win," as he kept saying?
  • Where would this discussion be today if Driscoll had just responded as promptly, directly, Christianly, and forthrightly as MacArthur and Johnson had reached out to him?
  • ...or if those who "mentor" him had pressed him to do so, and followed through?
I'm left with a bad, sick feeling about the whole thing. I can't see his heart, and I truly, honestly won't guess. He sure gives every sign of a guy who just doesn't get it, who feels attacked and harrassed. Which he is, in all honestly. Driscoll is hated by the same people who would hate you and me, and for the same reason.

But this isn't about that. These are critics Driscoll needs to hear; but he thinks he needs to hunker down, endure, suffer, be a martyr, and fire back from under cover (as I think he did in this talk).

Since I don't know what's going on "backstage," I really wonder what his mentors are doing with him, saying to him. They are men who are mature and godly enough that they ought to be able to calm him down, translate, add any warmth they think is missing, but reaffirm the specifics.

If Driscoll doesn't deal honestly and frontally with good counsel he's gotten... I just don't see a happy future. Not for him, not for folks who look up to him... and I fear repercussions for the good men who've tried to help him.


Chris Poe said...


Well said.

I too thought that the "rape" comment stuck out like a sore thumb.

DJP said...

I also didn't love the lecturing tone that followed it, cautioning soberly about using such language.

Because, you know, John MacArthur needs Mark Driscoll (or you, or me) to tell him to be more sober and cautious.

Rebecca Stark said...

I listened to it, too, and I really didn't know what to make of it.

My impressions? It had very little to do with the text he was supposed to be speaking from. If it had an overall point, I missed it. Some of it was quite funny.

At the end, I felt a little sad.

The Squirrel said...

Mark Driscoll is now, if not before, more about Mark Driscoll then he is about anything else. He's the next fad -- or maybe his time is almost up, as fast as fads change -- and will soon be irrelevant.

The sad thing is that this fad has struck the Reformed/Calvinist side of things. I had hoped that we were more discerning.


Andrew Faris said...


Without having listened to Driscoll's talk and without having paid much attention to the MacArthur/Johnson/Driscoll exchange, I wonder how Christian celebrity and Christian publicity play into all of this- for all parties involved.

That is, I wonder if Driscoll's primary responsibility as a listener is to the mentors he has put himself under (e.g. Piper, apparently, though I don't know Driscoll or who exactly he has done this with) and not to the other popular Christian pastors who may or may not like him.

Where does his home church come into this? Doesn't it seem like these kinds of rebukes are meant for that stage and the pastors around him who know him best and all that?

What do you think?

Andrew Faris

DJP said...

I think what you say in public arena is a public concern. And these concerns have been addressed both directly to him, and to his "mentors."

I really don't see how he has an "out" from taking them seriously.

Dan Odom said...

What repercussion could come to those who are truly trying to walk this guy through? I find myself agreeing with the majority of your takes regarding Driscoll... I was there and knew that everyone knew exactly what he was referring to when he played the "rape" card.

However, I just can't see how bad repercussions could come to the men who are seriously trying to coach and guide this guy. The blame does not fall to them if Driscoll doesn't listen. At least no more than the repercussions that came to MacArthur when he tried to coach certain men like Moir and Ezzo.

Not MacArthur's fault these men refused his council. Why Carson's, Piper's, and Mahaney's?

Am I misunderstanding the point?

Steve Lamm said...


If I were to receive a private letter from another pastor in the public view who has been a man of integrity and godliness over the long haul (like John MacArthur), I think I'd take the time to at least call him on the phone for some personal dialogue! After all, if MacArthur takes the time to pen such a letter, perhaps it really is an important issue!

I just wish Mark had done that, because I think he would have found that conversation immensely profitable for his own ministry.

MD is a very prominent guy with a large following, and perhaps that has convinced him that he doesn't need to respond to such appeals from other pastors.

Many of Mark's supporters say this is an issue for the elders of his church to deal with. Well, they don't seem to be up to the task! Perhaps that is the real problem.

I'm going to pray that MD makes that call some time soon!

Rachael Starke said...

"I had hoped that we were more discerning."

And thats a question I keep coming back to - were we wrong from the beginning? Has he really been like this all along? To be honest, the constant talking about all the growth and stats about baptisms and stuff made me almost more queasy than the intial naughtiness of his language. (Even his boldly announcing how he woke up with the sermon fully formed in his mind - I agree with what Dan has said before about that not necessarily being a bad thing, but in this case it sure seemed to have not helped!!)

But as everything has gotten worse, I just have to wonder if this really isn't more to do with pride and, like Keller himself alluded to in his excellent sermon, a possible idolatry of his ministry.

And not to speak for Dan P., Dan Odom, but it's that same discernment issue that would make me uncomfortable if other pastors like Piper and Mahaney kept standing alongside him so visibly. It seems that Driscoll is hanging on to a lot of credibility within the Reformed community because trustworthy men like these continue to involve him very visibly in their ministries.

But one other question I had that perhaps you can answer (Dan O., that is). I haven't heard Piper's message from the first night, but I listened to Ryken's and it moved me to tears after a day when I'd felt like a parenting failure. And Keller's was incredibly convicting and thought-provoking. There was just such a difference in style and content and approach, and I was wondering whether that was picked up. It seems like that in itsself might have been instructive.

DJP said...

Dan (Odom, not me) — go talk to Cathy Mickels, over on this meta.

She will have nothing to do with ANY of the men at that conference, SIMPLY BECAUSE they were there with Driscoll.

PLUS, she's furious with ME because I even LISTENED to one of those guys...

...AND because she thinks I sneered at her concerns because I started weaving out all the possible circles of guilt by association.

IOW, it has already started.

HeavyDluxe said...

Driscoll seems stagnated... Like he's increasingly becoming a caricature of himself.

I wish he'd cut the crap/ego. Driscoll's an amazingly gifted communicator even without his one-liners. And, he's a surprisingly gifted, gospel-minded preacher (setting aside, at least momentarily, the Song of Songs debacle).

I'm not a big MacArthur cheerleader... But if one of the most respected Bible teachers/preachers in our times ever took notice of my ministry and told me I needed to 'check myself', I pray I'd receive his counsel openly and with a big dose of humility.

For the record, I think that Johnny Mac's been absolutely spot-on in his method and critique of Driscoll thus far.

It's a shame that Driscoll is willing to die (pridefully, I guess) on all the wrong hills...

Side note: It's been interesting to watch the rise of Matt Chandler as a parallel to Driscoll. Matt is Mark's buddy, part of Acts29, young guy, hip/edgy communicator, etc etc. Lots of similarities.

However, Matt seems to be tangibly growing in humility and in skill. Matt's influence - which owed a lot to Driscoll's weight before - is now surpassing his buddy's in important circles and seems to be on the rise.

Sorry... that's more of a ramble, isn't it?

Solameanie said...

I had actually been concerned before this flap began, stemming back to the time when Driscoll first distanced himself from the other leaders of the Emergent/Emerging movement that doesn't like to be called a movement. I really wondered if this distancing was genuine.

Now that this hurricane has made landfall, I am wondering if Driscoll will -- in time -- return fully to the EC fold, on the grounds that his "eyes were opened" in his supposedly mean treatment at the hands of those who are trying to mentor him.

But then, I am known for my jaundiced eye. I'm taking Liverite to try and improve things.

Herding Grasshoppers said...


I must be jaundiced too, because that was my cynical prediction as well.

I tried to listen to his talk, but I fell asleep...

right after the part where he criticized an unnamed pastor for the "damnable" act of saying something that made a woman feel guilty, and then described an incident where he told one of the "negative" people that "Your whole theology is a form of birth control."

And, Dan, I bet you loved the part when he said, "I was, like, 'Kill me.' "

I think he also said, "I have the spiritual gift of devastation,", but I was drowsy.


Anonymous said...

Does this recording ever end? He's on point 17. I can't stand anymore.

This is really dragging. I can't believe he was asked to speak on this. What were they thinking?

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Why does my word verification say



Jon said...

Andrew said, "and not to the other popular Christian pastors who may or may not like him."

May or may not like him? Are you serious? Are you saying that those who have spoken out publicly against Mark Driscoll's irreverent speech in the pulpit (Biblically I might add) are doing so because they may or may not like him?

Now this just might be me, but I'm thinking the reason people have spoken out against Driscoll is because they believe he is not holding to the Biblical line of "above reproach" as all Christian pastors should. This is a loving thing to do. If people see it as a personal attack without addressing the Biblical issues that have been raised first and foremost, then I believe there's some serious matters that need to be dealt with as professing Christians.

DJP said...

Andrew, I think Jon makes a good point on a turn of phrase I missed.

When we move the focus from the daylight room of objective facts and the Scriptures, to the misty, dark parlor of mind-reading and heart-judging, I think we help no one. This can play to the ways to avoid dealing with sin. Of which I do not accuse you, but it's worth keeping in mind.

Anonymous said...


That "damnable" comment got me too, does he realize what he said there?

Not to mention when he admonished John MacArthur on using "big words".

It was tiresome. Reminded me a lot of sermons I used to hear in the seeker-sensitive church I attended where I used to live.

The whole thing have the feel of my 10 year old sitting me down and saying "Now Dad..."

Herding Grasshoppers said...


(Off topic)

Are you recovered and well?


philness said...

Love (agape) towards Mark Driscoll was what MacArthur and Piper and others have sacrificially displayed.

It takes manly courage and submissive obedience to the Spirit to reach out in love to a brother. I'm sure MacArthur knew full well the ramifications this act would return him. Love ain't for sissies.

I think we as saints progressing along in our own Spirit led assignments and courses in becoming conformed like Christ have a tendency to prolong our growth if we don't learn in truth from both sides through the lens of this brutal "L" word. I was in Eph 3 today and in v. 18 'with all the saints' caught my attention.

Anonymous said...


I'm doing really well.

I'm still not supposed to lift too much (post-surgery and all) but that's quickly coming to an end. Besides, being the Dad of's kind of impossible not to lift anything.

All in all, the doctors are happy so I'm happy.

Thanks for asking!

Shaun Marksbury said...

Dan, you wrote,
"Driscoll and apologists seem to (try to) make a lot of the fact that John MacArthur didn't pick up the phone and ask Driscoll out to Starbucks or an Ultimate Fight game or something. Even granting that (which I don't) — then why didn't Driscoll do what he thought Phil or MacArthur shouldn't have done? Isn't that Matthew 7:12-y, and 1 Peter 3:9-ish? "

I don't know if this was said elsewhere, but MacArthur did write Driscoll after "Confessions of a Reformissional Rev" was published. The letter was forwarded by Driscoll to Piper, but I'm not sure that much came of it.

Just like the letter Johnson sent to Driscoll (twice) before the Shepherd's Conference.

BTW: John MacArthur gave a preemptive response to Driscoll the day of Driscoll's talk (April 21). You can here it here.

Shaun Marksbury said...

I meant "hear it here," of course. :)

DJP said...

I here you, Shaun.



Michelle said...

Thanks to Taylor Mali, I found it too difficult to listen past 1:41 due to the constant use of interrogative inflections at the end of sentences that were not questions :).

Scott Shaffer said...

A few random thoughts on this message:

1. He's an effective communicator.

2. He's humorous; but it got too cute and forced for me.

3. Much of what he had to say was biblical and helpful, but ...

4. I think he missed the point of the text. He was so fixated on the 3 types of people in the church - the positives, negatives, and neutrals, and then giving 20 examples of the negatives, and none of this came from the text, that he then attempted to squeeze this into the passage. I admit I didn't study the passage as long as he probably did, but Paul's point seems pretty clear: faithful servants rightly divide and teach the truth, and they flee sin and pursue righteousness.

DJP said...

So, anyone who did listen to the sermon: did that whole martyr thing come through to you, too?

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Well, yeah!

To be fair, I didn't hear the whole thing (drowsy, bored, free-with-the-fast-forward-button)...

But I came away with the impression that he had an axe to grind, a text he had been assigned, and treated the text like expandable luggage into which he could stuff his agenda.

Yes, he managed a few "points of contact" between the text and what he said, but it wasn't exactly expository preaching.

He seemed to be trying to win over the crowd (which would be primarily other pastors?) by appealing to their sense of having been victimized by the "negatives" in their own congregations.

Which, of course, is all of us.


My .02,


Rachael Starke said...

I could feel the glow of the halo through my monitor.

I had exactly the same impression as you guys. He used the text as a launchpad for what he wanted to say.

And ironically, as Scott says, there are some things in that passage that relate directly to what went on that week, and I was truly praying that he would, dare I say it, man up and say something to the effect of "some things are foolish controversies, but some aren't and I'm humbled that mature men of the faith like John love me enough to ask me to think about these things, and I'm going to."

Anonymous said...

I'm right there will you guys. He seemed to relish the existence of "negatives" in his life, as if that made him special somehow.

And all the pausing, waiting for a laugh that, thankfully, didn't always come.

Interesting that almost the only bit in Timothy that he went with was the bit about arguing about words...way too autobiographical for me.

And the talking down to everyone as well....grrr...he's a kid, not an elder statesman.

DJP said...

Herding Grasshopperstreated the text like expandable luggage into which he could stuff his agendaWow.

1. What a deft turn of phrase; I really want to remember it.

2. My second immediate response is, "Ouch; God please save me from doing this"

3. Third is that it fits, unfortunately.

DJP said...

Rachael — isn't that something? Where would this WHOLE THING be if Driscoll had just humbled himself and said, "Good point." Or even what you said, which... good grief, what would that have cost him?

Pride. Martyr-image.


David said...

So I listened to the "sermon," or whatever that was. I wish I had just taken your word for it. Everything you said was accurate. If there was a theme, it was "Shut Up and Leave Me Alone."

Herding Grasshoppers said...


And all the pausing, waiting for a laugh that, thankfully, didn't always come.

I noticed that too, wincing when the audience did comply with the expected laugh... although I did (laugh) as well at times.

He certainly has potential as a gifted communicator.


Herding Grasshoppers said...


What I meant by the "potential" bit probably didn't come across.

I've had very little exposure to MD, though he's up in my "neck of the woods" - sort of - so I poked around and viewed a couple of clips of him speaking. (I can't quite bring myself to call it "preaching".)

I'd forgotten what you wrote, Dan, about him learning from comedians, but that's very telling. As Daryl noted, he's anticipating his audience and is clearly trying to evoke in them very specific responses. We saw that in the waiting for the laughter, and in playing on their sympathies, as pastors who have undoubtedly been unjustly criticized at times.

So in many ways he's a very gifted speaker or entertainer, but the clips I heard weren't preaching.

And now for the snarky bit... his appearance. Distracting.

I didn't bring this up at first because it's petty. And I'm not one to insist that a pastor wear a suit and tie. Still, I'm 42 and he's - what? - 38 I think I read?

I don't know his motives. I can only wonder why he appears to be affecting such a little boy look. The clip on Centurion's blog (April 17) shows what I'm talking about. My eyes kept going to the white toes of his Chuck Taylors as he scuffed his feet on the floor. Sort of "Leave it to Beaver"-ish.

But, again, that's definitely not a big issue, and if it's too snarky - Dan - just delete me :0)


Anonymous said...

For whatever it's worth, I think Mark Driscoll is well intending. In fact,... I've even learned some things from the guy.
But, like we all do from time-to-time,... he can make himself out to be a real bone-head.
His potential to reach many is undeniable, he just needs to get past himself to do it.
Hopefully he'll eventually take stock in the good council offered him and have the effect on the (seven, if I recall correctly) church campuses he's over that I feel he is capable of.

ryangeer said...

my comment, thoroughly unhelpful i'm sure, has something to do with a stick and a lifeless equine...

Unknown said...

When I heard the talk, I felt like I stepped into a movie that was half over and was trying to piece the story together. I thought he did an excellent job at whatever it was he was doing (I guess). I think it is a game of mind-reading in many of the criticisms I have read and heard. I need to listen to this again after a month and see if the it resonates at all. In my experience, Driscoll proclaims the gospel in such a way that leads me to worship, yet when off topic it leads me to want to punch a blogger for no reason.

In conclusion, I like your feedback and and find it helpful, yet I still think there is some mind-reading going on that maybe unfair, I think? I will listen to Carson at GCC again and be inspired. Thanks very much for your blog.

Lilian said...

First time commenter here.
I don't have any axes to grind and I don't know Mark D from Adam. Whatever I've seen from him has come mainly from YouTube

Frankly speaking, I thought the sermon he gave fell short of expectations. It felt more like a tirade at times. I don't like comparing generally -- everyone has different styles, gifts etc but it was glaringly obvious to me that the sermon was no exposition of the text (which I was kinda hoping for). He rambled on and (to use a Piper expression) "hovered around" the text while playing for laughs.
I don't mind a bit of levity in a sermon now and again but I like to learn something from the sermons I listen to and on this occasion, I was left feeling empty.
I loved all the other expositions though as well as Mr Fernando's talk. It's times like these that I wished I lived closer to the action. Ah well, thank God for MP3s and such.

Eric O said...

I didn’t have the same take you did on his talk. I took it for what is was, and understood the points he was making.

What does come thru is very disturbing for me, a pew sitter, a sheep, one who looks to my elders to be mature men of god.

I assume he is talking to pastors? If so, many of the examples he used and the characteristics of his audience leaves me wondering if these men are qualified to be pastors. For example, when he talked about some of the audience being ex jocks that are looking for a fight. Or when he tells the audience not to be like him thru this or that.

Now an elder isn’t going to be perfect, but shouldn’t they have reached a minimum level of maturity and control that these problems are not issues in their lives?

Occasional Blog Reader said...

This was tailor-made for the Reformed community which seems from the outside to be enamored with people-worship:








Just totally bowled over by big names which--in my opinion obscure he Bible and its plain message.

Secondly, Driscoll is exactly how others see the Reformed Church from the outside. Brash, uncouth, crusading and smug about its superiority. Haven't you ever been to Pyro?

Larry said...

Didn't exegete the text and came across as kind of a jerk quite frankly. As well as like one of those people he talked about who are always in Junior High!

Lance Johnson said...

For all the attempts to sugar coat this, if it looks like the world, talks like the world, and sounds like the world, it probably is the world.

That doesn't mean Driscoll is an unbeliever, but it does mean that his public person is quite worldly.

OldChurchFan said...

Very good post!
I wish Pastor Mark would get it...

I am tired of Christians who refuse to listen because ''God is with them'' or whatever...
''Hey, what we do I don't care''