Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Phil Johnson Critiques Mark Driscoll

Read the post here. This is the heart of it:
I have appreciated his defense of the atonement and his willingness to confront the neo-liberalism of other Emerging leaders honestly. But I don't think his perpetually coarse language in the pulpit and his apparent preoccupation with off-color terms and ribald subject matter are merely minor flaws in an otherwise healthy ministry. It is a serious shortcoming.
On a related note, a friend made an observation to me today commenting on the similarities between Driscoll and a prominent deceased fundamentalist, as chronicled in a recent post by Tom Pryde. If Driscoll had said in a sermon, "That's just a bunch of bull stuff," would he get a pass? And should he?

Surely there are different levels of crass. There are different levels of intent. And there are different levels of repetitive behavior. Those comparisons are to some degree subjective. But I wonder whether we're really talking about apples vs. oranges or apples vs. (perhaps) bigger apples.


Wendy said...

I'm not quite sure I understand your conclusion. Can you restate it (or re-ask it)?

As for the sermon in question, I listened to it live. I didn't fully agree with MD's analysis of Christ's use of humor (I think of it more as wit and sarcasm on His part rather than outright funny statements). Other than that, I don't recall anything I would consider cursing or violation of Scriptural instruction on language. Once again the blogosphere erupts over hearsay and not reality.

What people are uncomfortable with is MD's discussion of the full humanity of Christ in terms of what it physically means to be human and not just a thinking Spirit. If Christ discusses elimination in Mt. 15:17 (to use an ultra-polite word), shouldn't we be able to as well?

I'm sick of defending our church against this type of blogosphere witchhunt. While the sermon was used by the Spirit to draw unbelievers to Himself, this nonsense criticism tempts our leaders to be distracted from following up on our true ministry (discipling new believers) as we're drawn into these controversies.

Some may say, "tell Mark to stop using words that tick off the Phil Johnson's of the world." My response is that the Phil Johnson's of the world are irrelevant to our ministry at Mars Hill. We're not called to reach fundamentalists steeped in their traditions. We're called to sinners in need of repentance.

You can tell I'm frustrated. I may decide to delete this post tomorrow. :-) But someone needs to say this, and I nominated myself tonight. Thanks!

Ryan Martin said...

It seems that the entire holy catholic church is irrelevant to the ministry at Mars Hill.

Ben said...


I sympathize with your frustration. I'm not as ready express my judgment of Driscoll as others are, despite the fact that I definitely have areas of disagreement. I am one of seemingly many who don't quite know what to think of him, and hearing the thoughts of others is helpful to me personally. Certainly not all my posts related to him have painted him in a negative light.

I think your comments reveal an awareness that what people outside the Seattle community think of Mars Hill do not affect the ultimate rightness or wrongness of what goes on there. But at the same time, Ryan makes a very legitimate point that Mark and MH are increasingly influential over pastors and churches in America and perhaps beyond. That's a weighty responsibility. I think James 3:1 applies.

Finally, my closing point is essentially that I think the difference between the two is really one of degree, if anything. And some might argue that the degree of difference is slight. Those who tolerated one ought to think twice before they condemn the other.

Wendy said...

I don't disagree with your assessment, Ben. And I've always felt you've been fair in your responses. We do take seriously our influence over other young church planters. In Radical Reformission, Mark makes the point (as he does in Acts 29 conferences) that you don't get church growth by imitating the exterior of Mars Hill (cool band, low lighting, good coffee, and so forth). Those who try to imitate Mars Hill by imitating the color of the walls and the style of the bands are immature and not listening to the teaching they get at Acts 29 conferences. Those who accuse us of starting such a movement are equally immature and also not listening to the teaching we put out.

As for the holy catholic church, we do believe in our obligation to it as a whole, but not everyone labeled elder by any church out there has earned the right biblically to exercise blogger discipline. I don't submit to Joel Osteen, and neither does Phil Johnson. There are those within the larger body who have earned the right by correct doctrine and correct balance (by being dogmatic on only those things on which Scripture is dogmatic and gracious on those things on which Scripture is general). Piper, Mahaney, Carson, Keller have all been examples of this.

The blogger world is filled with those who think they have earned the right to publicly criticize things with which they are personally unfamiliar. That has always been a dangerous game in the church, and the blogging world is seeing a resurgence of it. I'm concerned over what the fallout will be. I'm concerned about the judgement God is going to bring down on those who have replaced a love for lost souls and a desire to obey the Great Commission with unjust, nitpicking criticism of those who are.

Dave said...


I certainly appreciate your desire to defend your church and pastor. This is commendable.

It is unprofitable, however, to couch it in terms that appear to make this a "concerned about souls and the Great Commission" vs. "nit-picky, steeped in traditions, [implied] unconcerned about lost souls and the Great Commission."

No amount of concern for lost souls justifies disobedience to the Scriptures. Phil's point is that he sees disobedience here. You disagree with him, but it is not legitimate to simply dismiss his concerns with prejudicial arguments like the ones you made.

I am sure that there are some out there that are on a "witch hunt" but I don't see that in Phil's post. He expressed very specific concerns about the message and the image. Of course, since I agree with the concerns, I think they are legitimate. You don't agree with them, but your answer to them is short on evaluation and long on questioning motives. This is not good or wise.

For the record, I have only listened to about half of the message Phil linked to and nothing other than that of Mark Driscoll's preaching. I have read a handfull of things he has written on the web, but not much. I have no particular ax to grind since I know very little about him and Mars Hill.

For what it's worth, I did not think it was very good teaching on the humanity of Christ for a few reasons: (1) he carelessly assumed things that the text of Scripture does not warrant (e.g., Jesus was a fun guy that's why people wanted him at parties. This isn't even warranted by observation of life--people are often invited to parties for many reasons other than fun); (2) his references to bodily functions were not only not appropriate, they tend toward obscuring the point (does the Bible really teach that Christ was perfect in the sense that Driscoll is claiming? isn't he confusing moral perfection with some other kind of human perfection?); (3) the quote of Athanasius is borderline heresy; and (4) the portion about what fundamentalists preach about Christ's temptation was particularly weak (how can he ever criticize someone for misrepresenting him? applying this to not faking it as a Christian almost trivializes what is at stake in Christ's temptation).

I believe I can honestly say with Paul that I rejoice that Christ is being preached, but I also have to say with Paul that external appearances are not the final assessment of things. We all ought to be sobered by the fact that there is a difference between gold, silver, precious stones and the other stuff. Many ministries, including some which bear the label fundamentalist, may look like the former, but prove to be the latter. We can't, I believe, base our judgments on external prosperity; it must be on biblical fidelity.

On that I hope we all agree, so please don't think I am accusing anyone here. I'm urging us all to be careful.

Wendy said...

I understand what you are saying, Dave.

For the record, I thought Mark's message from the Christ on the Cross Series entitled Jesus Died as our Example was a more effective handling of Christ's humanity than the more recent sermon. With that said, why do I need to be specific with my defense when Phil was so generic with his criticism? Several on his blog asked him exactly what words he had issue with. I haven't seen a response by him.

As best I can tell from the generic things Phil has said, he has issue with certain words used by Mark, not Mark's doctrine (I think Phil clarified this himself on his blog). Others reading his blog agree with his criticism. Yet others reading his blog who listened to the same sermon do not have issues with those words. What words are we talking about? Apparently differing forms of the same word Christ used himself in Mt. 15:17. The NAS uses "eliminated", but the dictionaries I've seen indicate that is an English nicety and that Jesus' original word was a bit more earthy. Even then, Mark didn't use the basest English slang for that.

At best, we can debate whether it is appropriate to use modern slang for "eliminate". Okay. Have that debate. But one must fully explore that debate and reach widespread consensus among leaders in the church before they can begin to level such broad criticism at Mark for his words.

I do think that some (not those posting here of course) are jealous of and/or threatened by the ministry at Mars Hill. What if the growth at Mars Hill really is predominantly "great commission" type growth? What if people are actually repenting of sin, placing their faith in Christ, with their lives transformed as a result? What if you can listen to music with a driving beat and have lasting life transformation at the same time? What if you can use words like nuts, toilet, and urinal in a message and people still see their need to repent of sin and submit to Christ? I watch it happen day in and day out. New attendee repents of sexual sin with his girlfriend. Girlfriend repents of sexual sin with her boyfriend. He repents of his use of pornography. She repents of her fixation with romance novels (one of the pornographic inroads with women). (You can tell our demographic has alot of sexual problems). New attendee repents of his sin against his wife. Wife repents over her abortion. He repents from his drug abuse. And so forth. That's the reality at Mars Hill. Point to Jesus, root out sin. Day in, day out.

These word controversies rise up out of people's preconceived notions of what is and what is not appropriate language. Surely Christ and the Word are our examples on appropriate language. I could go through all of the earthy phrases Scripture uses to make its points. But is arguing over what words we are allowed to use for "eliminate" really that profitable?

What I gather from some of the blogs and posts I read is that some think that discussing the reality that Christ "eliminated", passed gas, and hung out with the unsaved undermines His glory and mocks His perfection as God. But if you really think about it, THAT is very troubling theologically isn't it? Christ was fully God and FULLY human. If discussing the fullness of His humanity undermines His glory as God, then we are dealing with the very heresy that caused the Jews to reject Him in the first place, are we not?

Thanks for your willingness to have this discussion with me.

Wendy said...

One final comment, and then I'll try to let this go. Phil's initial post has led to another by one of the female voices of the TR blogosphere that is filled with outright lies. It is slander and gossip, which Scripture speaks of in CLEAR terms. God hates it and speaks of His hatred of her kind of lying speech in very clear terms (unlike the arguments against Mark's language). What she has done is a violation of the closed-hand aspect of doctrine. It's as sinful and strongly rebuked in Scripture as pornography or sexual fornication. But NO ONE in Phil's gang is rebuking her for her lies and slander, and he still links to her blog from theirs. That is warped and Biblically indefensible.

I can not fathom how believers can nitpick over the use of the word "nuts" and then tolerate outright, documentable lies and slander. Warped, warped, warped. Tolerating the worst of sin while nitpicking over non-issues.

Denise said...

Wendy said:

"Phil's initial post has led to another by one of the female voices of the TR blogosphere that is filled with outright lies. It is slander and gossip, which Scripture speaks of in CLEAR terms."

I don't know who you are referring to specifically Wendy. The one female blogger that I did read today that talked about this was actually quite accurate in what she described. I've seen all those scenarios personally and can put names of individuals to each of them. Scenarios like drinking, cussing, giving a raving movie review on Brokeback Mountain, going to Hooters, etc. All the while claiming to be "Reformed".

The Word of God that calls us to live lives in a manner worthy of the calling of Christ. Instead of defending sin and justifying whose who do it, let us judge with righteous judgment, the One standard that judges us all: Scripture. May we be convicted by what it says and what the Spirit says. We are to exhort one another to be MORE Christlike, not less. Eph. 4:19-30 is excellent on this.

1Pe 2:16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

And if what we do is not defined as "sin" in Scripture (and it makes it clear what sin is--course joking, sexual talk, cussing, etc.), still we are to:

1Co 8:9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.

1Co 8:12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.

Rom 14:13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. ..15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.

Course joking, sexual innuendos, swearing, cussing, brings shame to the name of Christ. Instead its worldly, selfish, and wrong. Its not of love for others of Christ. No matter the label of "Reformed" or "Emergent/ing" or not.

Carla said...


I followed the link from Phil's post over here, and after reading the exchange in the comment section here, I just wondered something.

Your last comment, in regards to the "one of the female voices of the TR blogosphere that is filled with outright lies. It is slander and gossip, which Scripture speaks of in CLEAR terms." I just wondered if you might be so kind as to name who it is you're referring to?

I know I posted on this (sort of - but in more general way that does include some of what I've seen and heard with the emerging/emergent crowd, and some of what I've seen and read with the non-emerging crowd) today, and I haven't seen any other women post on this or a related topic today. I also tried to make it clear that Phil's post was only in part, the reason I was posting.

It seems only fair if you're going to accuse someone of the things you've accused them of, that you might be forthcoming with the blog you're referring to.

I think we do need to be very careful with the accusations we make - and better be prepared to document such things if we're going to state them publicly.

Carla Rolfe

Dave said...


No need for us to go back and forth. I will just offer a quote for consideration from Jonathan Edwards that was made in the context of dealing with excesses amidst the genuine work of God. He probably was more open than I about these things, but there is wisdom here:

"Another error, arising from an erroneous principle, is a wrong notion that they have an attestation of Divine Providence to per¬sons, or things. We go too far, when we look upon the success that God gives to some per¬sons, in making them instruments of doing much good, as a testimony of God’s approbation of those persons and all the courses they take…But there are innumerable ways by which persons may be misled, in forming a judgment of the mind and will of God, from the events of providence. If a person’s success be a reward of something in him that God approves, yet it is no ar¬gument that he approves of everything in him."

(Jonathan Edwards, “Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 2 vols. [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1974], 1:408–409).

Strongbow2 said...

"Scenarios like drinking, cussing, giving a raving movie review on Brokeback Mountain, going to Hooters, etc. All the while claiming to be "Reformed"."

Um....I go to Mars Hill and I've NEVER heard of any of our pastors going to Hooters. They'd pretty much be out of a job if they did.

Is drinking a sin? The old fundamentalist double-speak seems to be true in your mind: "Sure the Bible doesn't say drinking is a sin - but Christians sure never drink!" Legalism.

Yes, our reviewer gave a positive recommendation for "Brokeback Mountain". Did he endorse homosexuality? Hardly. It was given a good review because it showed what happens when a person is left to their own godless devices and shows the stupidity of running from God (ala Ecclesiastes, Romans 1).

Cussing? Like Wendy said, it comes down to what you mean by "cussing" (are "heck" or "crap" or "hell" cussing words to you?). Mark certainly admits to having an issue with his mouth, but I've never heard him use profanity (like the 'F' word) from the pulpuit.

Shame, shame, shame on you legalistic fundamentalists for missing the majors and focusing in on the trite.

Anonymous said...
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Ben said...

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Robert said...

Pornofication of the Pulpit. I recently attended the Shepherd's Conference last week. I listened to Phil Johnson give an eye opening sermon on the Emergent Church Movement. Until then I had not heard of Mars Hill Church in Washington, not of the "lead pastor" Mark Driscoll. It is a shameful misuse of the pulpit and I am greatful for men like Phil Johnson and his ministry.

I have a friend who resently posted a video of one of Driscoll's sermons on a popular social website. It was disconcerting to hear that he approved of this ministry. He isn't the only one I have noticed, by the remarks being left, who approve. What is suprising is that they have been under the teaching of very biblically sound pastor. Now it appears that he is drifting away from correct doctrine.

I am praying that somehow I would be able to shed some light on the true nature of Mr. Driscoll and his ministry. I am not sure how to do this and would like your advice on how not to hurt my brother.

On a parallel note, I saw a video of an endorsement of Mark Driscoll given by John Piper. I really want to make sure I understand what is going on there. I thought that both phil Johnson and John MacArthur both approved of John Piper. How would you address this appearant conflict of interest between how you percieve a pastor is to carry himself from behind the pulpit and how Mr. Driscoll has done thus far?

Joey said...

Robert, I don't think there's much value in trying to figure out who is aligned with who and why. In other words, I fail to see the good in trying to analyze how John MacArthur feels about John Piper or D.A. Carson because of some association they may have with Mark Driscoll or anyone else. It seems to me that when we try to make those kinds of associations, we can tend to go down the path of "I am of Mark" or "I am of John."

I guess I only say that because I've been guilty of it in the past and I think it has been a stumbling block to me. I've found myself perusing the web to see what prominent Christians have to say about other prominent Christians and I'm not convinced God has been honored by some of my efforts.