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Mark Driscoll is back but he hasn’t learned his lesson

After an interview with the controversial pastor Mark Driscoll went viral this week, David Robertson says Christians must not be sucked back into his orbit

Mark Driscoll is back! This time it’s a new anti-Calvinist incarnation of: “Look at me, I’m a controversial preacher.”  For those of you who haven't heard of Mark – one of the most influential preachers of the past 25 years – here is a brief recap.

In 2008 Mark Driscoll was one of the rising stars of the New Calvinism and one of the first to be perceived as a celebrity pastor.  A superb communicator, he offered hope and encouragement to those of us who wanted to see the presence of a robust but contemporary Reformed theology in the market place – although his unhealthy obsession with Song of Solomon (which he seemed to perceive as a sex manual) and his reputation as the ‘cussin’ pastor, did cause some concerns.

His fall was spectacular; accused of bullying and plagarism, as well as allegations that church money was used to promote his book onto the bestsellers list, he was removed from the church planting movement he co-founded, Acts 29 (which has gone on to thrive), and his Seattle Mars Hill megachurch collapsed.  He resigned in 2014. 

He has now moved to Arizona where he is the founding pastor of Trinity Church. The hope was that his fall would have taught him humility and that he would have come under the oversight of a wider church denomination and would have been able to use his considerable gifts for the glory of God and the good of the kingdom.

Sadly it appears as though the opposite has happened. He now has Mark Driscoll ministries where you can ‘Ask Pastor Mark’, get daily devotions from ‘Pastor Mark’ and even more amazingly get lessons in leadership from ‘Pastor Mark’, the failed leader.   

You can also give to Mark Driscoll ministries and buy Mark Driscoll books.  In a bizarre tweet last week he even offered to send you a personally signed copy of his sermon notes if you signed up for his ministry. Protestant indulgences anyone?!

Mark, to his credit, has admitted that he has done a great deal of harm and damage in the past and that he has been a bully – see his interview with Brian Houston. The interview, given in 2015 after Hillsong cancelled his appearance at their conference, is fascinating. Among other things Mark repents of his criticism of Joel Osteen. He appears to be seeking a new tribe with mega church pastors such as Perry Noble, but it looks as though he is just adopting the same methodology and persona.

A New Tribe

He seems to have learned nothing from his arrogant attempts to be a ‘father figure’ to the whole Church. His latest interview has gone viral (which I suspect was the purpose) – it shows a crassness, a crudeness and an ignorance which is breathtaking – (although for those who knew Mark in his previous online incarnation as William Wallace – this can be seen as part of an ongoing pattern). This time his target is his former friends – the Young, Restless and Reformed.

Although he once claimed to be ‘Reformed’, Mark has apparently moved on since then. “I don’t hold with the five points of Calvinism – I think its garbage”, he said in the interview, adding:

“Reformed theology is: I have a dad who is powerful, in charge, not relational, he lives far away, and don’t get him mad because he can hurt you.

“Then they pick dead mentors, Spurgeon, Calvin and Luther – these are little boys with father wounds who are looking for spiritual fathers so they pick dead guys who are not going to get to know them or correct them”.  

It’s deeply saddening to read such language from any Christian pastor, let alone one who considers himself to be a teacher of others and a father figure. It’s not so much the amateur psychology or the abusive language, but rather the ignorant or deliberate misrepresentation of Reformed theology.

I regularly read Calvin, Luther and Spurgeon and I suspect that anyone who argues that they present a cold and distant view of God has read about them, but has not read them. I have found Calvin to be warm and so focused on the love of God that it is rare for me to read him without my heart being ‘strangely warmed’ (something that happened to John Wesley as he heard Martin Luther’s preface to Romans being read.

I also have no problem with a dead man being my mentor – John Flavel has been my pastor for many years and has rescued me from many a dark night of the soul. The notion that somehow Driscoll could replace Flavel because he could know and ‘correct’ me is as risible as it is arrogant.  Driscoll ain’t the Daddy – the father figure he aspires to be.  He comes across more like Boney M’s ‘Daddy Cool’ than our Father. Give me Flavel any time.

But where Driscoll’s comments really have the potential to be harmful, and indeed border on blasphemous, is in his views of the love of God. We love Jesus just because we want to be brothers and not fathers (what does that even mean?).  It seems that whereas in his previous ministry he viewed himself as a macho Jesus type ‘Son/Saviour’ figure, now he views himself as a 'Father/Saviour' figure.   

Spiritual Abuse

Driscoll’s attempts to ingratiate himself with a new tribe (witness his apology to brother Joel Osteen), his disavowal of his previous theology and his bitter language, cause a great deal of personal distress and even doubt. How can someone who sounds at times so humble and is such a good communicator, and seems to have such a love for Jesus, be so wrong? 

At times he seems to have an attitude of humility and repentance but then blows it in the next breath.  For example, he states “I have no right to criticise others”, before going on to criticise others. 

He reminds me of an abusive husband, who says sorry to his wife (and probably means it) but the next time (and there always is a next time), he beats and abuses her again – before saying sorry again and repeating the pattern. Driscoll is not an abusive husband, but he is an abusive spiritual teacher – one who seems to keep repeating the same mistakes. 

For the many young (and not so young) men who have benefited from his ministry in the past – we feel the pain, but we must not be sucked into his orbit again. We don’t need charismatic (in the non-theological sense of the word), entertaining self-promoters. We need Christ.

This blog was adapted from an article that was first published on TheWeeFlea.com

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