Sinning through Questioning? The Ministry of Mark Driscoll

15 thoughts on “Sinning through Questioning? The Ministry of Mark Driscoll”

  1. I’m glad you’re bringing attention to this article, John. Your focus on knowledge and humility is a very effective way of cutting through specific doctrinal issues of Reformed Christianity, though I am left at the end of this post wondering what you really think about predestined election — an essential aspect of Driscoll’s gospel as well as a focus of the article.

    While I agree that an understanding of our essential ignorance should lead us to accept and indeed embrace questioning, I disagree with you that Driscoll’s intolerance for dissent is in any way cultish. The despotism and charisma of a cult leader is, in my mind, characterized by his absolute control over the lives of cult members and the often associated ability to prevent them from leaving the cult. This is not Mars Hill. Nor is authoritarianism itself historically un-Christian. The Roman Catholic Church’s demand for unquestioning belief before Vatican II, to say nothing of its ruthlessness in ancient and pre-modern times, comes immediately to mind.

    (p.s. working on a reply to your letter…)

  2. Thanks for your comments, Clara. You are correct that the article spoke a lot about predestined election, but I chose to focus only on Mr. Driscoll’s intolerance for dissent. I am afraid that a response to your question would require another post of even greater length and even that would do an inadequate job of addressing the issue.

    I do not mean to imply that I think Mars Hill Church is a cult or Mr. Driscoll a cult leader. He is not. But, if the article is accurate in its description of him, he is an egomaniac, and I think this attitude is not befitting a Christian leader.

    And, yes, historically speaking (as Ms. Worthen points out), authoritarianism has been closely tied to some church leaders. But I think there a difference between pointing out that Christians killed heretics during the Inquisition and saying that Christianity sanctions this behavior. It does not.

  3. This is a very important difference, you’re right, but it’s a mistake to consider authoritarianism in Christianity an infrequent or aberrant phenomenon; on the contrary, it has for the most part been the norm. This doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t refashion the expression of our faith over time, only that we need to acknowledge the burden of history as we do so. I think your scriptural argumentation goes a long way toward proving Driscoll wrong, I just wanted to point out that as much as “Christianity” is also constructed by the precedent of history, he has a lot of tradition on his side.

  4. This was an excellent post, John. I think it’s interesting that you chose to focus on his intolerance for dissent, and hardly on the doctrines he teaches. Doctrines are crucial to the well-being of a Christian body, no doubt, but simply knowing and teaching the doctrines should not replace the change of one’s heart as reflected in Christ’s image. And in that sense I agree with you that his attitude is contrary to that of what a Christian leader should have. But as much as I dislike his behavior, it’s nonetheless encouraging to see him being used by God to bring people to Christ. All things are used for his glory, even this man who very much comes off as an egomaniac.

  5. I have a soft spot for Mark Driscoll, actually.

    Driscoll has the tendency to shoot off his mouth — and pay for it. As Worthen says, Driscoll’s critics have characterized the reorganization of the church as a power grab: there are other interpretations too. It doesn’t mention the shunning.

    And, while Driscoll is provocative and somewhat impulsive, from what I’ve seen he’s not a rhetorical lummox. While I don’t agree with a lot of his core views (his no women in leadership policy and his macho Jesus, for starters), they are nuanced and fully articulated, which I can respect.

    So, until I can find that sermon and read the context of his statements about breaking an elder’s nose or “sinning through questioning,” I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

  6. I read that article when it came out, and I read an article that somewhat defends Mark Driscoll: maybe you’d be interested in it.

    I also have appreciate much of how God has used Mark Driscoll’s sermons to bring clarity into my life. He definitely is pretty controversial, but I think the article fails to be well-rounded in its examination of Mars Hill and Driscoll.

  7. Oh, and I may say a few more things about the article…

    I’ve been listening to Mark Driscoll for about a year now, and honestly, the article seems very unfair and very dated. It’s very difficult to understand a church and a person/pastor in a short amount of time and write about it in an article.

  8. Thanks to Laura and Steven for providing some other perspectives on the leadership controversy at Mars Hill Church. I think Laura makes a fair point that Mr. Driscoll should be given the benefit of the doubt. And if his behavior doesn’t actually mirror his rhetoric, perhaps this instance provides the rare example in which it’s actually good that a pastor is not practicing what he preaches. But he should stop preaching it nonetheless.

  9. That, I agree with. If he is in fact preaching what you’re critiquing. (I mean, he may be, I’m not a Marshead, so don’t quote me…).

    But, yeah, I seriously doubt Risky Drisky is punching anyone in the face. Not with that five-o-clock-shadowed baby-face of his and his sweaters with hoods.

  10. Clara said, “I disagree with you that Driscoll’s intolerance for dissent is in any way cultish.”

    Perhaps “ruthless” is a beter description.

    Worthen’s article barely scratched the surface, given these public pronouncements:

  11. Hey John, thanks for your thoughts, but I’d like to caution against buying everything that a non-Christian has to say about a Christian pastor. While I have my own reservations about Driscoll, we don’t know really what happened besides the spin that the New York times threw on the story. And it seems a bit unwise to me to jump all over Driscoll on the testimony of only one witness (one that understands and sympathizes with Christian theology, history, and practice so well like the New York Times!).

    It’s fine to use the situation illustrated as an object lesson (and I appreciate your look at the Biblical model of correction), but to criticize Driscoll himself immediately is dangerous. We run high risk of slandering a brother in the Lord, and tarnishing the good name of a church and a minister of the Word unfairly.

  12. I have been doing much research on MHC, spiritual/church abuse, controlling and Narcissistic leaders in the church, etc… I am putting it all together so that people can see at a glance either what they’re getting into at MHC as they begin attending or consider joining as members. Also, I hope my blog will be a place of validation and healing for those who have escaped the abuse of such an over-controlling system and leader at MHC. is my blog exclusively about Mars Hill Church Abuse, yet general enough in some of my posts to be relevant to anyone who has been spiritually and psychologically abused.

    As a mental health counselor and a survivor of spiritual abuse, I perceive many signs of cult like control/spiritual abuse: Controlling Pastor with “Yes Men” Elders; No Talk Rule; No Dissent; Emphasis on Submission/Obedience; Shunning of “Unrepentant” Former Members; Dis-fellowshipping Questioners/Critical Thinkers; By-Laws Removing Accountability of Pastor/Elders; Mind/Thought Control; Membership Covenant and Financial Giving Pledge Required; “Biblical” Counseling Only, if Referred Out, Must Sign Release Form (no confidentiality allowed); Kangaroo Court Firing of Two Elders Who Dared to Question; Extreme Gender Role Enforcement; Members Must Attend Accountability/”Community” Groups… Scary!

    Preaching the Gospel is one thing, but abusing God’s sheep is NEVER acceptable, (see Ezek 34), despite some occasional good preaching (I say occasional because MD is very good at “beating the sheep,” laying heavy burdens on them that he himself, like the Pharisees of old, is unwilling to lift with his smallest finger!)

    In Him Always,

  13. Thank you for addressing this issue! My wife and I have been listening to Mark Driscoll for several years. We both have no doubt that he is a CULT LEADER in every sense of the word.

    How can people listen to his ego-driven, Hulk Hogan view of Jesus? I really believe this man needs serious help. His put downs and disdain for women is incredibly insensitive and chauvenistic. What is this philosophy doing to the young men in his church and what kind of marriage are they modeling?

    Was he exalted too early in ministry? He was only “born again” for a relatively short time before being lifted to such a high profile. The fact that seasoned and well-reasoned leaders like MacArthur have furthered his influence by joining him at conferences and discussion panels baffles me and causes me to shake my head in disbelief and wonder if they have an ounce of discernment.

    God needs to open the eyes of leaders who are promoting/endorsing his views and blogs have a unique way of bringing these types of issues front and center for the protection of blind followers who don’t see the error in this.

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