Friday, January 16, 2009

On Driscoll and the New Calvinist movement - A response to the NYT article

The New York Times has came up with a hit article on Mark Driscoll, the controversial pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. CRN, Tim Challies, Pyromaniacs, Steve Camp and even the Reformation21 blog have taken note and some have commented on it. While a little late, here are my two cents on the article.

First of all, before commenting on the article proper, the New York Times has previously shown itself to not being credible with its bias reporting, most especially seen in the coverage of the US election and the current counter-terrorist operation in Gaza. In my opinion, the New York Times [and almost all mainline newspapers also] has little or any credibility left, and anything written in it must be filtered to remove the liberal spin on whatever topic it is presenting, knowing that whatever it says is almost always one-sided and tailored to support the liberal agenda — in other words, propaganda. Therefore, whatever the article says must be critically examined and deconstructed instead of taking it as objective truth. [I so love deconstructing the liberals and their post-modernist offspring]

The article by Molly Worthen takes pot shots at two aspects of Mark Driscoll — his theology aka Calvinism, and his language usage. Her dislike of both is clearly evident throughout the article, though to her credit she tries to be factual and objective.

We will return to the Calvinism issue later, first focusing on Driscoll's propensity for crass and scatological speech. It is disturbing that Phil Ryken calls Driscoll's language usage, among others, masculinity. Our concern can be seen in this quotation from the article:

An “Under 17 Requires Adult Permission” warning flashes before the video cuts to evening services at Mars Hill, where an anonymous audience member has just text-messaged a question to the screen onstage: “Pastor Mark, is masturbation a valid form of birth control?”

Driscoll doesn’t miss a beat: “I had one guy quote Ecclesiastes 9:10, which says, ‘Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.’ ” The audience bursts out laughing.

Somehow I don't see what masculinity has to do with this sort of sexually degrading foul-mouthed talk. Or how about this even more shocking example from Driscoll's blog [Warning: Graphic language utilized]:

Question #21: Can I perform anal s-x on my wife?

Answer: The body is not well suited for this so make sure your wife is agreeable, do your homework, be careful if she is willing, and do not go from this to normal intercourse since you will infect her with bacteria. When you discuss the issue, it would be helpful for both of you to express why you do or don’t wish to participate in anal s-x and then pray about it for a time if there is disagreement. Most people are either for or against it, and very few people are neutral. Many wives are not agreeable to this so do not force it on your wife as she will be tense and that will cause her pain; if you love her you would not seek to shame her or cause her pain. Thus, anal s-x is technically permissible, but for a host of reasons may not be beneficial. We do not endorse everything on this website, but if you want to read some commentary on the issue from Christian married women, you can go to Christian Nymphos.


Now, is masculinity defined by being the exact opposite of the culture as being effeminate, such that men are to behave the exact opposite of what is considered proper and respectable conduct in society, including bringing the perverse influence of pornography into the church with such titillating language? Just because the effeminate institution calling itself the [visible] Church is about, to quote Driscoll, “singing prom songs to a Jesus who is presented as a wuss who took a beating and spent a lot of time putting product in his long hair.", dos this therefore mean that true biblical Christianity is the exact opposite? Why can't we let the Bible define what biblical Christianity and true masculinity is rather than being reactionary against the inroads of Feminism?

I do not think that it is hard to see what the Scriptures teaches regarding Driscoll's smutty language (cf Eph. 4:29). Since when has being doctrinally orthodox means that the way you live your life is not important? In fact, since a good tree brings forth good fruit and vice versa (Mt. 7:16-20), can such a chimera with sound doctrine and worldly living ever truly exists ( in fact not in appearance), except probably as a transitory phase?

Worthen claimed in the last sentence that "Driscoll’s New Calvinism underscores a curious fact: the doctrine of total human depravity has always had a funny way of emboldening, rather than humbling, its adherents." Before touching on the issue of Calvinism, I would like to submit that Driscoll's "New Calvinism" is not true Calvinism or Reformed at all. It may be Calvinism in the TULIP soteriological aspect, but what kind of Christianity is it that is so comfortable with the world such that worldliness enters the church with inappropriate R-rated public discussions on private issues such as s-x, and even homosexual-style s-x! As it is, Driscoll's words and actions especially in the capacity of a pastor drags the Lord's name through the mud with such unbiblical and repugnant behavior.

Phil Johnson chooses to focus on the Calvinism aspect especially in the last statement written by Worthen. I agree with Mark here that such seems to be "airing dirty laundry" in public. In this effeminate post-modern age, any form of confidence and certainty in the truth would surely be thought of as pride and arrogance by the "loving" and "tolerant" crowd (both within and without the visible Church btw). Those who like to talk about the "proper", "civilized" and "Christian" manner of discourse ought to peruse the Scriptures and Church History to see what true Christian discourse on such matters have been like before even utilizing the word "arrogance".

Back to the statement. Calvinism, contrary to Worthen's claim, does not embolden Christians. Rather, it is Christ that emboldens Christians. Like the prophets and believers of old, Christians today are emboldened to speak the truth with confidence and certainty because Christ is personally real to them. Those who know Christ will be changed by Him, and part of that lies in the confidence and certainty of the truth in Him. Being something that is at its root spiritual, it cannot be discerned by unbelievers though they can grasp it cognitively. Yet such is foolishness to them because they know not Christ nor have His Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14).

With regards to the statement as it is applied to Driscoll and Mars Hill Church, I think Steve Camp's statement here hits the nail on the head

Boldness for the gospel comes from the crucible of humility; and is not marked by the obscene and frivolous, but by what is reverent, holy, and Christ-exalting. Even in Seattle.


For more, see this article Grunge Christianity? by Pastor John MacArthur


rick said...

I completely agree that Driscoll's speech can be unnecessarily crass and I agree with you that masculinity doesn't have equate to foul language - in fact, it should be the opposite, only one trying to impress, intimidate, etc. speaks that way.

On the other hand, I'd like to focus on the "under 17" and "question 21" point. Personally, I don't find these crass. It seems Driscoll used straight forward language and avoided being foul. Personally, I think he should receive positive reviews for creating an open, interactive environment. If we cannot discuss life issues with other believers than I think we are in sad shape.

My concern here however is how in the world could sex, of any form, with ones wife be the foremost thought on a person's mind while in the gathered assembly??? It seems a declaration of praise to our Lord would have been more prominent. Or perhaps even a Scriptural point to bring worship. Or ...

I like the openness but I'm not impressed with what is on their mind.

PuritanReformed said...


Yes, such life issues should be discussed. But does it have to discussed openly to such an extent? Generally, such things should have been discussed in private per-marital and marital counseling, in single-sex youth retreats etc, which is to say more privately. I don't see the need to ape the world in parading what is private for all the world to see (like sharing with the world how many times any couple have sex per week etc.).

rick said...

Agreed - I don't see the point of this conversation in that larger setting. I just didn't see it as aping the world. Either way, one would think a large gathering of believers would have higher things to discuss.