Maybe this post will be the beginning of more than a few focusing on Mark Driscoll’s Christian MPD (multiple personality disorder), because I’ve been sitting on a few thoughts from his talk at the Convergence Conference at Southeastern Baptist Seminary back a little while ago too.
Right now, my pleasure reading is split between several books I’m picking up for twenty minutes at a time; sometimes bathroom reading (I know, too much information), sometimes work avoidance, and sometimes divine coincidence (a sense that I was meant to pick the book up at that time…don’t push me theologically on that because you’ll find my Christian MPD). The main ones are Brian McLaren’s The Secret Message of Jesus, Barbara Brown Taylor’s Leaving Church, and Mark Driscoll’s Confessions of a Reformission Rev. If that lineup doesn’t hold the potential to confuse me, I don’t know what will, but I digress.
I’ll just go ahead and say this; Mark Driscoll holds the power to both deeply convict me and deeply disgust me; sometimes in the same sentence. And I think I’ve been able to pinpoint the times he disgusts me from a wide range of exposure to him (the Convergence talk, videos on Youtube, his blogging on the Resurgence blog, and comments he’s left on other blogs). Mark is brilliant. Flat-out brilliant. And his insights into discipleship and what it takes to be a church planter have changed my life and radically affected my thinking about human/God interaction. This is why I’m excited to read his Confessions of a Reformission Rev. But Mark, in an attempt to be funny, especially in his freedom from a script (but not necessarily), says incredibly hurtful things about various groups and then in the same breath claims to have great love and appreciation for Christian leaders with theological convictions much different from his own. I’m not the first one to say this (and I won’t be the last); Newsflash Mark, you can’t have both.
This twisted way of relating with others was shown perfectly in his Convergence talk where Mark in one breath gave a stunning repentance of the juvenile, un-Christlike ways he has interacted with others in the past, and about fifteen minutes later said “Brian McLaren has a new organization called ‘Deep Shift,’ and I think somebody inadvertently put an ‘F’ in there.” Really Mark, really? You’re really repenting?
I go out of my way (seriously, I do), to pay attention to Mark’s good thoughts, because he has so much that is wise and passionate and mentors me as a young man. But I can easily see how others, either because they’re lazy or they’ve been so deeply wounded by inconsistent relationships in the past, shut Mark Driscoll out, never to give him a listen again. And that’s unfortunate, both for them and Mark; and, I should say, for the gospel.
These thoughts have been spurred by a little section in Confessions where he says (my asides will be in italics),
“Since the movement (emerging church), if it can be called that, is young and is still defining its theological center, I do not want to portray the movement as ideologically unified because I myself swim in the theologically conservative stream of the emerging church. (sounds ok so far) I am particularly concerned, however, with some growing trends among some people; the rejection of Jesus’ death on the cross as a penal substitute for our sins (historically speaking, Mark, this as the only understanding of the atonement is only one thousand years old; half the life of the church), resistance to openly denouncing homosexual acts as sinful (with you); the questioning of a literal eternal torment in hell, which is a denial that holds up only until, in an ironic bummer, you die and find yourself in hell (funny, but oversimplifies a complex Biblical issue); the rejection of God’s sovereignty over and knowledge of the future, as if God were a junior-college professor who knows only bits and pieces of trivia (sovereignty and knowledge are two completely different issues, and again, this is a complex Biblical issue); the rejection of biblically defined gender roles, thereby contributing to the “mantropy” epidemic among young guys now fretting over the best kind of loffah for their skin type and the number of women in the military dying to save their Bed, Bath, and Beyond from terrorist attacks (shut up Mark); and the rejection of Biblical names for God, such as Father, which is essentially apologizing before the unbelieving world for the prayer life of the flamboyantly heterosexual Jesus who uttered the horrendously politically incorrect “Our Father” without ever having the decency to apologize for being a misogynist patriarchal meanie (I get your point and agree with it, but the majority of the sentence is so juvenile that it completely obscures your point). This is ultimately all the result of a diminished respect for the perfection, authority, and clarity of Scripture, all of which was written by patriarchal men (again, Mark, the Bible never claims perfection, it’s not all on the same level of authority, and you, as a teacher, should know that the Bible is the opposite of clear on the surface, and in some cases on a deeper level is intended to remain a mystery).”
Then, four sentences later, Mark says, “I assure you that I speak as one within the Emerging Church Movement who has great love and appreciation for Christian leaders with theological convictions much different from my own.” Oh. My. Word. How could he even write that after all that had come before, writing it off as “poking fun”? And is Mark willing at all to step back from what he has inherited as “true” to ask some serious questions about whether it’s something clearly expressed in the Bible or whether it’s a way of thinking relatively recent in history? This is a wisdom question. If he admits that he is changing continually (which we all are), shouldn’t that lead to stifling knee-jerk reactions he has for those who would challenge what he thinks is “true”?
The willingness to question what we’ve inherited is an important (and I’d say necessary) element of the best that the emerging church has to offer; because much of the questioning is helping us all to read the Bible in a deeper and more wise way. Do people go too far? Yes. But is my opinion on whether they go to far inherently truthful and wise? Of course not. So I suggest we all get off our theological high horses and take a strong dose of a humility pill before we throw folks under the bus (wherever on the spectrum of belief we are). I’ll go ahead and say this; there are plenty of ways to stand for what we believe is true in a passionate way that respects the perspective of others. Slapping the label of “heretic” on folks who disagree with you (which Mark does three times in the Convergent talk) benefits no one.
That wraps up my extended thought on Mark. A horribly inconsistent, repenting yet wounding, wise yet juvenile, relational yet relationally-destructive follower of Jesus. Sounds a lot like me, but I do try to be careful about how I word my skewering of others’ sacred cows.