Sunday, September 23, 2007

Mark Driscoll: Like a Fundamentalist, Only Angrier and Funnier

I really think this Christianity Today profile of Driscoll by Collin Hansen is an absolute must-read if you want to begin to understand one of the most influential forces in conservative evangelicalism.

As providence would have it, I read this article as I was finishing listening to Driscoll's sermon from last Sunday, "Anger and Action," from Nehemiah 13.

Driscoll strikes me as possessing the kind of militant spirit that would have been useful to have around oh, say, throughout the first 60 years of the 20th century when evangelicalism went all fuzzy. In the sermon linked above he absolutely blisters ecumenical and inclusivistic evangelicalism, including a stunningly scathing critique of Christianity Today for hosting on its website an advertisement for seminars on message of the Old Testament led by a non-Christian Jewish rabbi.

Driscoll's retort: "Here's what the ad said: 'Everyone needs a rabbi' . . . I'm like, 'We have one. His name is Jesus.' . . . The result then when tolerance overtakes truthfulness and the feelings of people overtake the feelings of God, passion diminishes into passivity, and people just don't care."

Speaking of being invited to participate in an interfaith prayer meeting, Driscoll says: "I pray to Jesus. They pray to Satan. This is not a conference call. We're all dialing different numbers . . . Do you offend them, or God? The question is not, 'Will you offend?' The question is always, 'Who are you going to offend?'"


LayGuy said...

I personally am a huge fan of Driscoll. It staggers me to see the negativity heaped on him when he says it like it is.

I personally love Israel and have a very pro-Israeli worldview. But if I saw that ad advocating a Rabbi to teach Christians about the OT, I would freak as well as non-messianic Rabi's are hostile to Jesus.

Todd Wood said...

Interesting article.

But I do have some of my own questions . . .

Ben said...


I think those are worthwhile questions.

More on related issues from Phil Johnson here.

Dave said...

Driscoll's quite a mixed bag. I hadn't listened to much until this post, so I downloaded some stuff to my ipod. I appreciated his lecture at SEBTS in many ways.

I have listened now to a total of three presentations by Driscoll and it two of them he said things that are very weak and questionable theologically. In the message from last night, given to a bunch of church planters I believe, he did a classic Hyles move in saying that 2 Cor 5:21 means that Jesus actually became a pedophile, adulterer, etc.

Either he doesn't believe that that verse deals with imputation or he is being sensational to the point of distortion.

In general, I find his comments about culture to be so simplistic as to be deceptive.

So, I guess if Driscoll is like a fundamentalist, he's like the Hyles end of the spectrum.

Ben said...


For all the things I like about Driscoll, he does make it easier for me to understand how people were lulled by Hyles' communication skills.

Larry said...

I think Driscoll's main gifts are communication and leadership. It's not his theology that excels. I think he does have a tendency to overstate things for the sake of effect.

Given his pretty stout defense of penal substitution, and his Reformed theology, I would doubt that he denies imputation (per Dave's comment), but I have heard him say that before and wondered about it. I think he addressed it in his series on the Cross from a couple of years ago. I listened to a few of those, but don't recall specifically what he said about that issue.

I have not listened to him much recently, but in previous years I listened to him quite a bit. I do think in recent years he has gotten worse, IMO, as far as his preaching style. I just wonder if he is trying to live up to his press, in some respect. Having this reputation for being edgy has perhaps inclined him to keeping pushing the envelope.

At the same time, I do think he has gotten a bad rap for some of it. I don't think his "edginess" is as common as many people seem to think. But again, I haven't listened to him much lately.

Kent Brandenburg said...

If he is an emergent Hyles, then why is is that young fundamentalists (yf) and even some conservative evangelicals (ce) so drawn to him? I think I know, but I am interested in what people think. Fundamentalists are pretty hard on Hyles, showing vitriol toward him (and I've never gone with him), but they often give Driscoll praise, it seems.

One theory could be that the yf and ce see love for the world in their groups and they see Driscoll as less of a fake. If they're going to be worldly, they're going to be proud of it, like him.

Kent McCune said...


I think part of Driscoll's allure is that he is far more doctrinal and theological in his preaching (he claims to be Reformed) than anything that ever came out of the Hyles orbit. Setting aside the cultural/hip elements of his preaching style for a second, if you listen to any of Driscoll's sermons you have to at least say that the biblical/theological/exegetical content is far richer than a typical Schaap sermon. There really is no comparison.

And there is certainly no easy-believism coming out of Mars Hill. New converts are expected to join the church, be active, and embrace biblical roles and responsibilities within the church and the home. And I understand their practice of discipleship and church discipline is pretty rigorous. Can this be said of the typical Hyles/IFBx church?

Mars Hill Church is also very "missional", at least in the sense that they are aggressively evangelistic. They do a lot of growing by winning new converts and that is something that seems to be a weak area within fundamentalist churches.

I think these are some of the things that explain Driscoll’s appeal vis-à-vis the criticism directed towards the Hyles crowd.

Kent Brandenburg said...

I would hope that what you say is true, Kent. But if it is, what is the comparison to Hyles? Is it just methodology? Humanistic, promotion, marketing, bowing to some kind of fleshly pursuit? I wish yf and ce could see the disconnect between his doctrine of salvation and his personal and ecclesiastical separation.

I've never heard Schaap and I heard Hyles last 20 years ago. I did recently get the Schaap promotional DVD and it seemed he might have been toning it down to draw in a certain audience he isn't getting. There was a lot of Ron Hamilton on the DVD.

Ben said...

Kent Brandenburg,

I think Kent McCune is right.

Larry said...

I wonder if the original Hyles' comparison by Dave was about a captivating speaking style that was devoid of truth, or at least confused about truth, and simplistic in his thinking.

Ben said...


What's the other option?

Larry said...

That Hyles was a captivating speaker who was a controlling powermonger over people, who was immoral in his life, and who was a heretic on some obvious points.

I don't see Driscoll as a Hyles type dictator. In fact, he can't be in his church polity. He is a captivating speaker who is mostly orthodox. He gets the gospel. Hyles was, in many ways, very unorthodox, and didn't get the gospel, didn't know how to tell the truth (cf. number of messages, etc), and apparently didn't know how to keep his pants on. (Was that too much like Driscoll?)

To me the comparison is that Driscoll is a captivating speaker who has developed a huge following. Unlike Hyles, he is generally orthodox, though certainly misguided on some things.

I listened to the convergent message yesterday and thought it had some high points and low points, and some very typically funny moments that were a little bit off color, but certainly expressed truth (the "inserted f"). I think the worst thing is this oversimplification about "them" and "us," "them" being liberals and fundamentalists and "us."

Larry said...

I should have said "one of the worst things" was the oversimplification. I think Dave is right about the oversimplification about culture too.

Dave said...

My point was close to what Larry suggests, but a little more tied to Ben's post. That is, Ben said that Driscoll is like a fundamentalist only angrier and funnier. I don't see Driscoll reflecting fundamentalism in these ways other than the Hyles version.

Hyles used an "in your face" posture to make his points that combined anger, mocking scorn, and laughs. When one adopts this approach it lends itself to mistatements because novelty catches people's attention. Being clever and cute and combative works to some degree, but it, in my mind, injects too much of the speaker into the equation.

That's where I believe that Driscoll mirrors Hyles (if he mirrors any professing fundamentalist at all). I am not convinced that he is "Like a Fundamentalist" at all, but if he is, then it is like the Hyles wing (in terms of communication style).

Kent McCune said...

Kent B.,

I was only commenting on your question re: why YFs seem to give Driscoll somewhat of a pass but are critical of Hyles.

Ben said...

Perhaps the mild tongue-in-cheek nature of the post was not as clear as I expected it would be. That doesn't mean I don't see similarities on some points, but there are obviously massive differences between Driscoll and any meaningful definition of fundamentalism. That said, I do think, as I said in the original post, that Driscoll's disgust with the shallowness of contemporary evangelicalism is a welcome sign.

One other thing. I don't think it would be accurate to conclude that simplistic statements about culture are limited to the Hyles wing of fundamentalism.

Ben said...

Forgot one thing. Driscoll clearly affirmed imputation at Southeastern Seminary's Convergent Conference a couple weeks ago.

Dave said...

The point of my comment was not to suggest that Driscoll doesn't believe in imputation, it was to show that his handling of that text leaves you one of two choices: he doesn't believe that text teaches it or he is being sensational to the point of distorting the truth in the text.

I assumed we all knew he believes in imputation, so it would be clear that I was making a comment about his sensational style distorting doctrine.

tenjuices said...

Hey Ben
Just found your blog through "said at SOutheastern"
Is that you with the 4th member of the Trinity in the photo (JMac)?

Ed Payne

Anonymous said...

The ignorance of someone actually saying that Jews pray 'to Satan' is beyond revolting.

I am Jewish and I have never ever heard a single rabbi in my life who was 'hostile to Jesus'.

Honestly people thats just nuts. You don't have to attend a class with a rabbi, thats ok, its a free country but to say that Jews pray to the devil is simply repugnant and Nazi like.

Shame on anyone who calls themselves a follower of Jesus that says such a hateful thing about people Jesus loved.