January 16, 2021

Centuri0n Vs iMonk: On Driscoll’s Need To Repent

md3Frank Turk and I have been tossing the Mark Driscoll guilt/repentance issue back and forth a bit. So we decided to both post on the subject and link the other fellow’s post. Then you can argue in the comments.

Here’s Frank’s take on the matter. Expect uproarious applause. Trust me that Frank is serious about this. We wouldn’t even be friends if he hadn’t publicly called on me to resign the ministry several years ago.

So here’s my take. Expect Dan Phillips to denounce me as an apostate and Truth Unites and Divides to be banned from the comment thread.

The passage that seems to have the most bearing on what we are discussing is I Timothy 5: 19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. 21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. 22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.

1. I wouldn’t argue that Driscoll’s language has not occasionally been sinful. I would say, however, that it falls into a category of behavior that is more a matter of a maturity issue than a blatant sin issue. It is foolish speech, not malicious speech. In Driscoll’s context, this kind of speech doesn’t create the kind of response it would in a church where most of us. That doesn’t justify it by any means, but it may explain why Driscoll tends to sin as he does with words that he ought to temper, while preachers in my town should stop putting American flags in the worship space and having “God and Country Sunday.” In other words, with certain kinds of character issues, context inevitably gets involved in how we perceive and apply what the Bible says.

2. That isn’t, however, an excuse. Driscoll has certainly been made aware that his language/humor was controversial and distracting from the Gospel. Who made him aware of this? I can’t be sure, but I’m of the impression that, at the least, the “Together for the Gospel” crew, especially John Piper, have frequently taken him to task for this. (By the way, when I post about Driscoll, angry feminists and other women have the most critical and condemning words for him because of what he says about complementarianism. Many of them feel he needs to repent, resign or go to jail.)

3. In Driscoll’s books and in his presentations on the use of words, it’s not hard to see that he doesn’t interpret the overall problem the same as John Macarthur et al do, i.e. Driscoll is unfit for ministry. Driscoll seems to feel it is 1) perhaps offensive and/or excessive to some, but not seriously damaging to the Gospel and 2) part of the way he has learned to communicate with the specific audience he sees as target: younger, “hip,” aware of the place of comedy, etc.

4. Those who have corrected Driscoll have probably pointed out that 1) this isn’t Christlike, 2) it does bring negative attention and 3) Mark has a responsibility to grow under the admonitions of other, more mature brothers who are his mentors. Who judges if he has complied with those correctives?

5. His elder board at Mars Hill. Were I to be an elder in Mark’s church, I would be more concerned with Mark’s teachability and perception of what it means to be accountable for continuing character flaws, even if they are “second level” and not disqualifying. I’d have some specifics I’d want him to be working on. I wouldn’t be as concerned with “public apologies,” which, in this case, have the scent of neo-reformed team sports about them.

6. I believe the passage in I Timothy is placing the correction of an elder with other elders, and that is where it should be with Mark. His elders are responsible for how they specify repentance in this situation. It is entirely possible that they have done so, and Driscoll’s recent sermons on humility have been part of how he has taken responsibility. I don’t know how his elders judge the infraction or his repentance, but I believe they are the “all” before whom Driscoll is primarily accountable.

7. I think that the correction and rebuke offered Driscoll by men like Macarthur, Frank Turk, Phil Johnson and some (not all) others, has been appropriate because Driscoll is a public figure, but they are not the elders to whom he is accountable. Again, it is Driscoll’s elders who are responsible for how he, as their pastor, responds to public rebuke. (I can imagine being rebuked by a visitor hearing me preach something controversial in our chapel, and I can imagine that person saying I should apologize for something I said. But it is my pastor, my school President and the board of trustees who evaluate and decide what the issue is and how I should respond.)

8. Overall, I’m more curious about the Mar’s Hill elders than I am Driscoll. I think he has said a lot of what he needs to say and I think he’s made satisfactory efforts at growth. Why he hasn’t been held more accountable, or made more accountable or required to be more specific is a question for his elders. Everyone else is simply expressing an opinion about what they don’t like, which can run the gamut from Bible translation to wardrobe to humor. Let the elders decide the seriousness of the offense and the specificity of the repentance.

9. Frank points out a recent column by John Piper as an example of what Driscoll has not done: be public and specific. There are two things to be noticed here. First, Piper is using the “apology” as a clarifying illustration in a column on what media he views and abstains from. He expressed what his conscience dictated was important in an apology, but it wasn’t in the context of public repentance as much as public writing. I don’t think Piper confesses all his flashes of temper publicly to his church or all his readers, nor should he. Secondly, ironically, Piper has apparently not told Driscoll to make a public apology, but has continued to counsel him privately, if their public accounts of their relationship are accurate. Both Piper and Driscoll have described their relationship in terms that I assume would include “I told him to apologize publicly and he won’t.” I think Piper sees this as a matter between Driscoll and his elders (that’s my guess btw) even though he sees the value of rebuke by non-Mars Hill elders.

10. I’d like Mark Driscoll to do a lot of things differently, and acknowledging some of the boneheaded things he’s said in public would be one of them, but then I’d like John Macarthur to apologize for a lot of things he’s written about charismatics and I’d like 20 other public ministers to apologize for things they’ve said and done. In my view, scripture gives us the right to speak, but formal accountability is between Driscoll and his elders. If they fail, then they should be called out by the critics as well.


  1. Michael,
    Re: #5, If you were an elder at MH, there’d probably be a video on YouTube of MD talking about wanting to punch you out – but in that one he’d probably name you directly. 🙂

  2. MOD EDIT: Comments are going to moderation. You people who come to a blog and condemn the ongoing discussion of an issue because it doesn’t appeal to you or seem relevant to you really need to find another way to spend your time. If you want to be internet policeman and pull over the Blogosphere and write tickets because you think the whole discussion is worthless that’s great. Go do it elsewhere. My assumption is- stand by for this!- every discussion isn’t FOR EVERYONE. TA DA!!!

    The day I go to someone else’s discussion and condemn it in the comments because I don’t care about it is the day someone needs to tell me I’m wasting my every moment in this medium.

  3. While I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog and I agree with most of you write, I have to say that I agree with Frank on this matter. Because of the public nature of the comments and sins made by Mark Driscol, I think there should be a public apology similar to what John Piper did. Mark Driscol strives to reach non-Christians everywhere, as a result, his teachings and actions are public and affect people everywhere. I think as a result of this, because his sins and misinterpretations affect others outside of his church, he should apologize to people outside of his church. Otherwise it appears to the public that there is no remorse or admittance of guilt. It leads the public to believe that there is nothing wrong with the sins he has committed.

  4. ….its gettin a little ruff in here…it reminds me of a death cage match on wrestlin…2 go in ..1 comes out…go imonk!

  5. John Lane:

    As I pointed out in the article, Dr. Piper is using the apology as an illustration of a larger point. He’s not “just” apologizing. It is hard for me to believe that 1) Dr. Piper, Dr. Macarthur, Dr. Mohler, etc have always apologized in public for anything they did that was a public misuse of words. 2) In fact, I don’t believe it, and I don’t believe anyone on Frank’s team gives it a moment’s thought.

    It’s amazing to listen to “Mark Driscoll has set out to teach the entire church, therefore he must apologize to the whole church….and we’ll decide when he has.”

    This is often because he is invited to conferences. Why aren’t all the venues that invite, promote and podcast him also called to apologize publicly? They invited the guy and created the situation. Shouldn’t they apologize to the whole church?

    There’s something else going on with Driscoll, and you could hear it on the floor of last week’s SBC meeting. It may be rooted in bad behavior, but it’s fueled by a number of other things, most prominent among them a sense that the younger crowd isn’t following the right pied piper.

    As I said in the piece, I have about 20 ministers that I perceive as owing apologies. I can say so, but I didn’t ordain those guys and I’m not forced to listen to them. They don’t speak for me and I don’t endorse them. I get to be annoyed, and that’s it.

    I remember when Frank called for Pat Robertson to apologize. Frank is a lot more consistent than most folks in this controversy.

    Thanks for reading.



  6. “. . . apologize in a way that is acceptable to an amorphous group of internet critics, who arguably will not be happy until Driscoll formally surrenders to the opposing team.”

    I have to admit to not knowing anything about Mark Driscoll and only a little about Piper. However, what has caught me about the discussion is how much it resembles current secular political discussion. One side finds something “wrong” about the other side, issues public condemnations, and insists on public apologies. Moreover, those public apologies have to be worded in a specific way, and are often accompanied by calls to “resign.”

    What troubles me is the sneaking suspicion that we should not sound like current political debate tactics.

  7. “…but it’s fueled by a number of other things, most prominent among them a sense that the younger crowd isn’t following the right pied piper.”

    Bingo, well put.

  8. “What troubles me is the sneaking suspicion that we should not sound like current political debate tactics.”.

    Agreed. As somebody probably mentioned earlier, the tone is pretty far out of line for the inheritors of the true Christian philosophy that “he who is not against us is for us.”

  9. Terri Watters says

    My heart breaks as I watch the discussions on the internet about Mark Driscoll. As believers, why are we spending so much energy condemning someone else’s successful ministry? I love this blog because imonk has the rare ability to evaluate without venom, but with honesty. I don’t feel defensive for Mark/Mars Hill even when I read his concerns, etc. But for so many others, the intensity and volume of the accusations seem in line with that old saying that Christians are the only ones that shoot their own wounded. This is the stuff that unbelievers look at and quickly decide they want no part of it, and they miss the message we all want to proclaim, which is Jesus Saves.

  10. I think both Frank and Imonk are correct, but Imonk is more correct. MD is accountable to God, the MH elders, to a lesser degree the members of MH church, and not so much to anyone else. The logistics of someone being accountable to the universal church (or worse, the internet) is mind boggling to consider.

    Frank states his basic argument as:
    [1] If a pastor sins, then he must repent.
    [2] Mark Driscoll has sinned.
    [3] Therefore he must repent.
    Agreed! Has it escaped his notice that Driscoll routinely repents of sin, and not just sin in general but the specific issues people keep throwing at him (crude speech, arrogance)? He argues that if the sin is public, then the repenence must be public. Again, Driscoll repents in his sermons, sermons which are downloaded by millions… quite public.

    I’m sure there is plenty more in Driscoll’s personal and public life that remains unrepented (much like us all). There are even some specific things that I feel he should repent of. I am encouraged, however, that he has a proven and quite public track record of repenting of his sins. I am willing to let Mark’s sanctification work on God’s timetable, not mine.

  11. Frank,

    While you may quibble over one of my examples my point still stands.

    In your essay you claim that Driscoll has really sinned based on the Eph. 5 admonition to “let not these things even be named among you.” According to your logic a Pastor couldn’t even reprove his congregation or a church member, lest he “name these things amongst us.”

    The idea behind the passage is that we are not to participate in these sins, not that we are sinning by speaking frankly about them. I have yet to be convinced that the man is guilty of anything other than offending the sensibilities of some brethren.

  12. Thank God Stanley Hauerwas is a Methodist, you Baptists don’t like naughty words!

  13. My question regarding elders was more general, rhetorical. I think these issues are lurking under the surface in every church, not just the high profile ones. My guess is that most elders are ill-equipped to disciple a pastor. I would also guess that most church/elder boards are owned by the ruling oligarchy, who already have their pastors and families in a fishbowl. The others are filled with the most available warm bodies.

    My advice is this: think about what you want from your pastor: compassion, care, sense of humor, friendliness, boldness, selflessness, a listening ear, a mentoring heart, etc; then, model that in your relationship with him or her. Get beyond your own wants, needs, and problems and realize that pastors and their families have their own and often feel isolated and afraid to share them with others.

    H.B. London and the Pastor-to-Pastor ministry have tons of resources regarding pastoral care.


  14. Dumb Ox,
    You’re kidding me, right? Don’t you know the proper way to interact with your pastor is to have a huge list of rules (some unwritten) and criticize the crap out of him if he breaks any of them?

    Unless of course he happens to be appreciated by lots of people outside of his church. Then he doesn’t have to be your pastor.


  15. I keep hearing about maturity, and that Driscoll would be expected to move beyond what I and others would call juvenile tendencies in his sermons. He will be 40 next year. Now that’s not old per se, but he’s also not in his twenties.

    Monk and Frank, I appreciate both of your thoughts on Driscoll, but I have a question for both of you: When would you expect a pastor to be considered mature – and what do you consider as qualifying displays of maturity?

  16. Various areas of our lives may be immature for many different reasons. I’ve not seen most people grow out of lifelong personality characteristics. If those include a tendency to shoot off at the mouth, that may be a characteristic that appears throughout life.

    Clearly, Frank and I differ on the use of the term “blameless” to describe a minister. I understand that to mean not guilty of disqualifying sins. I wouldn’t understand it to mean has all his human flaws completely handled. I respect Frank’s view completely, however.

    Disqualifying sins can’t be named as categories, because all of us sin in every category. We have to discuss instances and I’m trying to affirm the role of elders here, not write a complete encyclopedia of sins.

  17. For those who keep up with such things, I’m about ten comments from being declared an apostate at Frank’s place. I estimated it would take 50 or less. We’ll see how it goes.

  18. Imonk:

    I probably should have been more clear in my previous post. I am not sure if Mark Driscoll has sinned. I believe that IF he has sinned and sinned in a public manner because of his position as a pastor and as the leader of a church planting organization, he should apologize publicly. Christians are expected to be above reproach. How can we do this if we sin publicly and then only acknowledge it privately? I also don’t think that “because Piper and MacArthur have not always publicly acknowledged their public sins” is a valid argument. Just because they haven’t apologized doesn’t mean that they are not obligated to apologize.

    I don’t know much about what went on at the SBC earlier, however, I don’t have any problem with people outside of MD’s church voicing their concerns about MD. I believe that Frank has a valid point when he mentions Jesus’s response to the Pharisees, A public rebuke. If people like MacArthur believe that MD has sinned and is unfit for the ministry, he has every right to voice that opinion.

  19. iMonk,
    I’m kind of surprised that the question of culture/contextualization hasn’t come up more than it has. I would submit that Mark Driscoll lives and ministers in a unique culture. I’m no relativist. Of course there are absolutes. But things like tact and propriety of language clearly depend on the cultural context. I understand that Mark speaks to a wider audience. I’m sure he “should know better.” But he’s a product of (and minster to) a different culture.

  20. “For those who keep up with such things, I’m about ten comments from being declared an apostate at Frank’s place. I estimated it would take 50 or less. We’ll see how it goes.”

    Wow. I just checked in to see the “rat poison” analogy over there linked to Driscoll while attempting to admonish my argumentation. If Driscoll is a condemned heretic just say so, don’t dance around it with anologies that just end up proving that you consider him an unregenerate, false teacher.

  21. Jeremiah Lawson says

    Would Frank consider the existence of Mars Hill Global prima facie evidence that Driscoll seeks a global pulpit?

  22. Ron:

    You can read my answer here.

  23. I would consider that anyone who preaches in anything greater than a conventionally-local pulpit is seeking a global pulpit.

    For example, I might cut some slack to a guy who was the stand-by pulpit supply for some denominational region because he’s subjecting his reach to the churches that ecclesiastical entity sends him to. He’s being sent.

    On the other hand, I guy who travels all over North America, or all over the Western Hemisphere, or who is on TV, and not being sent. He’s sending himself. He’s seeking out influence.

    There’s nothing wrong with that per se. Michael and I do that to a large extent. But in doing it, we have to grant that we’re opening ourselves up for broader accountability and broader criticism.

    Are the watchbloggers going to come and gitcha? Sure. Nobody faults anyone for ignoring the professional offended class. But when John MacArthur comes calling, or CJ Mahaney comes calling, you know what: take a step back. You stepped up to the global pulp[it, and now the others who have earned a place there have the right to call you out when you wear your pants on your head.

  24. Pat Kyle:

    So what does the admonition of Eph 5 vis. the unmentionable sins of the unsaved mean? Explain what it does mean rather than what it does not mean — because I think you’ll find that what you have said here is extraordinarily flimsy.

    The passage is specifically about crude talk and coarse joking. What it must mean is that jokes about sexual sins are not anything but sins themselves — and I’d substantiate that by pointing to Mat 5 and the sermon on the Mount where Jesus declares all lust as adultery. Taking humorous delight in sexual sins in nothing more or less finding a way to think about those things in a way that you think is acceptable.

    Thanks for asking. I look forward to your exegesis.

  25. Earnest:

    Why didn’t Paul use that line of reasoning with Titus who was sent to Crete — the home of men who were, in Paul’s words, vile beasts? Why was Paul careful to tell Titus exactly the opposite of what you suggest we should think of Mark Driscoll’s behavior?

  26. Theo:

    First of all, your affirmation that he “repents all the time” is a little shakey. Link to two sermons or blog posts where he says something more specific than the generic “I’m a sinner” or one of its cognates.

    But second of all, isn’t it odd that for all the repenting, he’s still telling crude jokes from his books written 3 and 4 years ago? If I repent of shouting at my wife in public, and then a couple of weeks later in a different place shout at my wife in public, have I really repented? Doesn’t repentence mean to do war with your sin and to flee from it — not to return to it like a dog to its vomit?

    The plea that Mark Driscoll has repented publicly doesn’t stand up to the first pass, imo. I look forward to your evidence that I am mistaken.

  27. BTW, iMonk:

    I’m troubled, and saddened, and deeply concerned that you think there’s some kind of team sport happening in much of the criticism of MD.

    Did some of that happen at the SBC? Yes. It’s happening in Missouri right now. That stuff is like watching Eddie Haskell frame the Beev for the cookies he ate — except not funny.

    But you yourself admit the language stuff we’re on about here is out of line — and for the sake of the on-going debate I have reduced it to one specific incident only. But you yourself have trouble with his riffs on manhood; you have trouble with his essentially-flip treatment of women. We could make a laundry list of his offenses, from scatology to inuendo. But making the laundry list doesn’t improve the dialog.

    The straight question we have to answer, then, is this: should we be not ashamed (let alone proud of ourselves) when we make a joke about masturbation on national television? If we can answer that question, and solve that problem vis. the position of a pastor before the nation and not just some guy talking on his cell phone in the mall, then the rest of the issues all simply fall into place.

  28. Frank: So I’m making up the team sport angle on Driscoll? The reason he’s getting this and twenty other ministers aren’t getting it- in fact the reason you don’t even know 20 other ministerial boondoggles in public- has nothing to do with the current Theo-Team atmosphere in the Christian blogosphere?

    The problem is that you are most surely aware of the team sport aspect, but that isn’t what motivates YOU personally in this dialog. I agree with that. But does it have to do with what has been offered me via email today? The four post indictment from a major preacher? The ridiculous British You tube material of Driscoll saying he teaches that Jesus was a pervert?

    Sorry. I’d like to be more like Osteen, but I can’t smile that much.



  29. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Sorry. I’d like to be more like Osteen, but I can’t smile that much. — IMonk

    Nobody can. Not without Enzyte or tetanospasmin in their bloodstream.

    P.S. Frank: Maybe you Baptists have been teetotal for too long. You sound like you need to pour yourself a stiff one and chill out.

  30. 6. I believe the passage in I Timothy is placing the correction of an elder with other elders, and that is where it should be with Mark. His elders are responsible for how they specify repentance in this situation. It is entirely possible that they have done so, and Driscoll’s recent sermons on humility have been part of how he has taken responsibility. I don’t know how his elders judge the infraction or his repentance, but I believe they are the “all” before whom Driscoll is primarily accountable.”

    Driscoll got rid of the elders who disagreed with him. Remember? He threatened to go ‘Old Testament’ on them.

    And Driscoll has repented over the past few years and then gets worse.

  31. “But when John MacArthur comes calling, or CJ Mahaney comes calling, you know what: take a step back. You stepped up to the global pulp[it, and now the others who have earned a place there have the right to call you out when you wear your pants on your head”

    CJ Mahaney has no moral authority. Check out the SGM survivors site. Especially about how SGM churches treat sexual perverts and their victims. CJ is a fraud who started a cult.

  32. It seems pretty basic to me. If Driscoll works for you, great. If not, go somewhere else for “church.”

  33. Matt Svoboda makes a decent point about other “false teachers”. But, in my opinion…that is the real problem with Driscoll. He isn’t a false teacher. He doesn’t seem to water down the gospel, or preach prosperity lite. He really seems to preach Christ and him crucified. Though I don’t agree on his points on women, I can agree with his points on Christ. And that is what gets me. I feel like he is…just…so…close..and then he makes crude and over sexual comments…and my hand faceplants on my forehead.

    It happens in public, I think people have the right to comment on it. Is anyone perfect? No. That isn’t the issue. Could we toss a stone at everyone, including ourselves. Of course. But again not the issue. Gossip’s will be gossip and there will always be people wanting to stir up trouble and controversy. I just feel like Mark should be pro-active in trying to put the kibosh on as much of that as he can.

    And the elder thing, that two people have alluded to, really did happen. People were removed, and the elders are hand picked. I won’t debate that here, but, as IM pointed out, at the end of the day, the elders are responsible. And if MD has chosen to place a bunch of “yes men” in his corner, in the end it won’t just be MD that suffers, but those in his congregation.

  34. I listen to iM and MD’s podcasts quite regularly. Enjoy them both, actually. I also listen to Greg Boyd (Woodland Hills Church, St. Paul, MN) as well. Greg refers to the electronically-connected listeners as their “podrishoners”. If I am a podrishoner of MD’s, and it’s as if I am sitting in a chair or on a pew in one of the MH services, then am I due an apology when Mark goes off “the deep end”?

    And on the topic of language. What is sinful speech? The reason I ask is because, if I look (and think) lustfully at a woman, then I have committed adultery in my heart. How is thinking “bull****” any different than saying it?

    Now, my language does come from my heart, for the most part. And rarely, if ever, do I point my cussing at anyone or people in particular.

    I take issue with the viewpoint that pastors need to be better than anyone else in the congregation. We all have sin areas and struggles of various kinds. But when we put the pastor on the pedestal, we forget that the taller the pedestal, the longer a fall (and more injury) is the result.

    Putting the pastor on the pedestal and even distancing him from the rest of the flock (note: he’s still a part of the flock) causes major dissociation between him and the congregation. And it’s difficult to tell who is responsible for that – the pastor, who may have just joined up with the congregation in the last few years and really hasn’t been included and accepted beyond having him and his wife over for dinner, or the general population / congregation of the body.

    I don’t want someone to turn on their “Game Face” for Sunday or any other time when they have to be “Christian.” I want raw, real, life. Tell me what you’re thinking kind of conversation. Not candy-coated, lukewarm (Jesus is gonna spit that out!) Christianity that is the shallow end. And if the pastor cusses… who cares? Most of the people who tend to care let more than 1 word slip out of their mouths. The difference is they don’t get caught.

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