January 15, 2021

The Driscoll Debate: iMonk vs Turk, Part 2

skelUPDATE: Justin D. Barnard at Mere Comments has a much more useful and on point critique of Driscoll here.

First of all, let me thank Frank for the opportunity to have a good discussion about the issue of pastoral accountability in the internet age (a very important topic) and for having such a constructive and positive dialog. Though I expect to be denounced to the lower reaches of the pit by a couple of commenters at his place, Frank’s been a first class conversation partner, and has said nice things about another post of mine to boot.

I have very little to say in response to Frank’s SECOND POST, available now at his blog, but I will say a bit.

Frank’s conception of a “global pulpit” or “addressing the global church” is a slippery, ultimately subjective concept that primarily seems to be meaningful in the minds of a small group of theo-bloggers. I think that a room full of non-internet using Christians, even conservative ones, would need considerable help working with Frank’s idea that the orthodoxy of the “global church” is presided over by an unelected jury of successful pastors such as John Macarthur and C.J. Mahaney.

In fact, as meaningful as the ministry of Piper, Macarthur et al are to me and many of us, I’d step to the microphone and have to stand in a long line to say that none of those men exercise any authority over me other than as brothers in Christ from whom I may receive a rebuke.

As many of you may know, in April of 2006, I was fisked for three days by James White at Alpha and Omega Ministries. (I am a big fan of Dr. White and benefit greatly from his ministry. I am not in any way disrespecting him with this illustration. For apologetics, he is the best.)

I was never contacted by Mr. White. I was never informed by his elder board or his ministry board that I was out of line with my influence on the “global church.” I had never mentioned Mr. White or contacted him. Yet Mr. White held me up before his audience for several days, working through a post I had written on the differences I had with some versions of being a “reformed Baptist.” It was a thoroughly public scouring.

Mr. White’s well known chat room crew apparently passed on my post as treading destructively on the subject of reformed orthodoxy, and someone must have said I was a rising liberal, emerging voice disguised as a Calvinist, who needed his wings clipped. Mr. White performed surgery on me, in public on his blog, for three days. I didn’t like it BUT IT WAS HIS PERFECT RIGHT TO DO SO.

In considering this incident of public rebuke from a brother- and that is what it was and that is what I evaluate it as- Mr. White was not dealing with me as a church member under his care. He has no covenanted authority over me to which I have ever agreed to submit. His place as an elder in a church and his position of respect and popularity still create NO FORMAL RELATIONSHIP to which I must respond.

What I must do is ask “Is God speaking to me through this rebuke?” If I judge that God is speaking to me, then- and this is important- I am not to go to Mr. White for further instructions on how to repent and what repentance is adequate. I am to go to those leaders to whom I am accountable.

Or- and this also is crucial- we might ask why Mr. White didn’t seek out my elders- I have three levels of authority over me- and inform them that I was disagreeing with the reformed faith. Of course, those to whom I am accountable would likely have heard all those rebukes with puzzlement because their theological commitments are different than Mr. White’s.

Now—I agree that my blogging put me on a larger stage, and I agree that once on that stage, others on that stage may rebuke, react or correct.

I agree that I must consider this as the possible work of the Spirit.

But there exists NO WORKABLE AUTHORITY STRUCTURE that involves Frank Turk or any other internet critic that can place these Driscoll issues out of the realm of rebuke and into the realm of specific accountable repentance, i.e. we know when he’s repented, how and if it was sufficient.

The only way we will know that Driscoll has repented is, apparently, when Frank says so, and as much as I trust and affirm Frank, I’m simply not ready to sign on to giving individuals- pastors, bloggers, etc- that kind of jury duty.

Frank has a standard of repentance in his mind that he derives from scripture and experience. I’m sure it’s wonderful. But I have not agreed to it, and unless Frank has contacted the Mars Hill elders, I don’t think anyone else has agreed to it.

Who has the last word on Driscoll? The blogger in the UK who says Driscoll is a Jesus rejecting apostate who teaches Jesus was a pervert? The people on the floor of the SBC who haven’t listened to or read a word of Driscoll? The mob with torches in Missouri who clearly loath Driscoll as a danger to the church? The major pastor who indicted Driscoll in 4 posts on his blog? Some assortment of bloggers and pastors?

If it’s the global church here, do we need to call a church council, or will the theo-blogosphere just have to do? Will we all get an email, telling us when Driscoll is all right?

I will say this again: Anyone can critique, rebuke or protest. When angry feminists protested at his church, he invited them in and listened. Blog away, Frank and Co. It’s MD’s responsibility to listen to you. But when it comes to what does adequate repentance look like, your opinions are going to be just that- Opinions. Only his elders can hold him formally accountable.


  1. Michael —

    Just had a second here to see the meta for your rejoiner. I’m am actually perplexed by the shame/sin thing.

    So for my sake — edify me — I have two questions:

    [1] Are dirty jokes actually not a shameful thing?

    [2] is there a manner of interpreting Christian spirituality in which we should experience shame for something which is “not sinful” but “not right”? If so, how does that work?

    Some people may not see dirty jokes as shameful/sinful — I get that even though I think they have their heads in the cultural sand. But those who say it’s “not right” but “not sinful” are going to have to help me see where the Scripture outline venial infractions which are not an offense to God that we ought to avoid and/or regret.

  2. I know it’s true, Sue. That’s not the problem.

    The issue being discussed is:

    “So he quoted Ecclesiastes 9:10 (”Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”) in a joking manner when asked about masturbation being a sin.”

  3. Frank:

    One of the big problems I have here is that I do not consider most jokes about human sexuality to be in the least shameful, and most not sinful. I consider them a healthy and often helpful acknowledgment of a huge part of human nature.

    The closest I can come with Driscoll to hearing anything “shameful” is some of his ridiculous rants about masculinity, and then it’s his boneheaded insensitivity to the basic humanity of others that is shameful.

    Personally, I haven’t found anything he’s said about sex to be anything more than moderately crude, and then only around those who read the NT with a kind of Discernment happy, Luther-rejecting legalism that I couldn’t live with if I tried. I do, however, understand that on the larger stage he has offend some sensitive persons and I think that deserved whatever correction he has received. The same people, my friend, are sending him to hell over BEER, and for all the same reasons.

    But my views on dirty jokes aren’t important. My dad was an encyclopedia of them and I found it quite endearing.

  4. sue kephart says


    I also believe this blog is about authority in the church. As you are well aware different denoms do it differently. None of the systems seem to work perfectly. But you go with what your tradtions has. What seems to be the problem here is people who have no authority over this man are acting as if they do.

  5. So, wait, all those “Presbyterians do it in committee” tee-shirts I used to see people wearing were sinful?

  6. Wolf Paul,

    I hear what you are saying, and each Christian tradition has their own way of dealing with these gray areas that aren’t sin but also “are not profitable.”

    I was pushing the point because I get tired of these wanna be internet popes making announcements from their thrones(blogs) impugning ministers of the Gospel and spouting BS about the “global church” and “global ministries” and how they have the right to confront and set these matters aright. They can’t even substantiate that the target of their rhetoric is guilty of a sin that disqualifies them from the ministry.(Apparently violating said blogger’s sensibilities is enough in this case.)

  7. Sue,

    “What seems to be the problem here is people who have no authority over this man are acting as if they do.”

    “The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. – 1 Cor. 2:15-16

    I often think that watch bloggers look for and desire an authority that Scripture doesn’t grant them.

    Where does this kind of thing end? If we give in to this kind of culture, it will end here:

    “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” – Galatians 5:15


  8. don’t you think at some point, if driscoll has so offended the Lord our God, that the Lord our God will call him to account? but if he is preaching the gospel, should we not keep our hands, and mouths, to ourselves?

    i mean, in all seriousness, have the critics of mark driscoll (and his mouth) ever actually read the bible? have you ever seen the words that are used? we have only english and they are bad; i wonder how offensive they are in greek or hebrew or aramaic? when the Lord told ezekiel to cook his food over human excrement, what word did God use for ‘excrement’? (Ezekiel 4). Seriously.

    all this discussion about whether or not driscoll should apologize and repent, and who has the right and authority to call him to it, makes me think there are quite a few people in the world who are the second coming of the Perfect, who have nothing better to do with their time than criticize those who do instead of being those who do. criticism is easy; let’s see you preach to his audience on any given sunday.

    imho, all this ammounts to pure jealousy. it is a control thing. people want driscoll to fall into line and he is refusing to do so. they want conformity, and he is refusing to do so. the man is as orthodox theologically as it gets; sickening to a degree to be sure. he has been published in books along side da carson, david wells, voddie baucham and more. da carson has preached at mars hill. I trust dr carson’s opinion.

    to the critics…armchair critics…who never will in their lives stand up behind a pulpit and proclaim the gospel, stuff it. to the perfectionists among us…whatever. this episode has caused me to look differently at driscoll…and download a bunch of his sermons…and also to look differently at myself. i have no right whatsoever to ask him to repent or apologize. that right belongs to Christ alone.

    mark owes none of us anything. ‘before you, and you alone, have i sinned.’ i heard that somewhere.

    why is it the harshest critics of preachers in this world are those who are inside the church? and we wonder why less and less young men (and women) each year decide they have been called to enter into the paid ministry, and why more and more of us each year are deciding to leave the paid ministry.

    thank you.

  9. Turk, (assuming you’re still reading here), I’m surprised (and a little disappointed) in your poor use of scripture in the discussion here. Do you really understand “sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you” to mean that we shouldn’t even talk about those things? I was under the impression that “named among you” meant that we shouldn’t live in such a way that people would have reason to accuse us of these things.

    Also, on the question of culture- you mentioned that Paul doesn’t give Titus any room for culturally different expressions of faith. I don’t read that in Titus at all. According to scripture, the sins “named among” the Cretans were sinful in the eyes of the Cretans. The principles are universal, but their expression will vary according to culture. Paul makes allowances for that. You, apparently, don’t.

    On the mission field, we lean language in the context of the culture we’re assigned to. In other words, we learn to speak the language in the local accent and idiom for the sake of communication, incarnation, and our example. Would you rebuke them for using colloquialisms? Are you in a position to do so?

    Again, I’d love to see some of this conversation focus on contextualization. I think it’s obvious that Mark Driscoll is a product of (and skilled minister to) the people he’s working among in the Pacific Northwest (and pockets across the country).

  10. I’d love to see some of this conversation focus on contextualization

    mmmmmm, that is another can of worms E.G. Good thing you posted it here. At Franks blog it would probably get you clowned.

  11. Earnest —

    I’m surprised at your inability to read what I’ve written on this so far. Do -you- think that’s what I mean — that is, that you can’t bring up sin ever?

    What’s the context of Paul’s statement, Earnest? Is it all things at all times, or is it specifically the handling of the world’s sinfulness the way the world handles it? Let’s look and see, shall we?

    1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

    3But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous ( that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7Therefore do not become partners with them; 8for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

    Isn’t that odd — that what Paul is saying here is that we should not partner in evil things, we should not walk as if we didn’t know what God thought of these things, and we also should not joke about these things — “these things” being specifically sexual immorality and idolatry.

    Discern what is pleasing to the Lord, right? So jokes about your private parts, jokes about the things they do at the Playboy mansion or during the Seattle porn fest, jokes about the things outlined in Lev 18 — pretending that this is funny and sort of commonly acceptable is ruled out by Paul.

    Should a father instruct his son about what it means to be a husband? Absolutely. Should a mother instruct her daughter regarding what is means to be a woman and a wife? No question. Can a pastor address privately the questions of a married couple to help them enjoy what God has given them? Absolutely.

    Should any of these thing be a public spectacle in an assembly where there are believers and unbelievers mixed together (in the best case) equal measures? Should they be turned into jokes so the unbelievers can laugh at their sin rather than wince?

    You tell me. Which do you think Paul would do? How do you substantiate that?

    As to Titus and the question of cultural diversity, let’s ask paul what he wrote about that:

    12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

    1But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. … 7Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. … so that in everything [the believers] may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

    That Paul — not really putting up the missional “We’re #1” rubber hand, but instead preaching a counter culture where the virtues and fruits of the spirit are really the things which draw men to us. You know: “rebuke them sharply” is not a code phrase for “give them credit because they themselves recognize their sinfulness”.

    I wonder: why did he say that the Cretans were “evil beasts”, Earnest? Was it to point Titus at the way to see their culture more sympathetically, or was it to show him that he had much to set in order?

    Surely it’s obvious to you — I’m surprised you didn’t think of it sooner.

    This is not about the broad adaptation of learning their language — because the Cretans spoke Greek, which was the language Paul and Titus were communicating in. This is about a fallen world and a Gospel which changes people not just in the “not yet” sense, but also in the “already” sense.

    You are welcome to e-mail me if you have further questions on this — or stop by my blog as it is almost impossible to miss. I am sure there is more in Titus and Ephesians we can work out together for our mutual benefit.

  12. Jerry —

    So you’re saying that if we read the Bible page by page, there are bad words on all of the pages, most of the pages, some of the pages, a few of the pages, or none of the pages? You can assign any quantifier you want to those descriptors, but in English “most” will mean “more than half” and “some” will mean “less than half”, so you can sort of thumb-nail it from there.

    Who would deny that there are probably a dozen or two examples of harsh, vulgar language in the Bible to describe and denounce sin? But we’re talking about two-dozen examples in more than 1300 pages of text in my ESV large print. The quick math there is that if each example is one page large, and we round up, 2% of the Bible is vulgarity in the service of God’s condemnation of sin and the rest is not.

    Should we really model ministry on the 2% of the Bible which is dealing with the most extreme cases, or are we really instructed by the Bible to do something else unless God gives us explicit instructions to do something more invasive?

    I’m not against hard preaching, or intelligent and measured sarcasm, or even ridicule of the contemptible: I have spoken out on this topic against something which the Bible is pretty transparently against in the normal Christian life.

  13. Hey listen folks —

    iMonk just set me straight, and dirty jokes are funny, not sinful, because his dad told them well.

    We’re done here; my blog remains an open target for those who need some finer points blackened over. I honor Michael’s memory of his Dad, and I’ll leave it at that.

  14. Classy exit Frank.

    Per your model ministry off of 2% of the Bible you again jump to the assumption that Driscoll is simply standing up and making masturbation jokes as a regular part of his preaching. Without this assumption your entire argument falls apart like a leper on a treadmill.

    How many minutes worth of sermon has Driscoll preached, and how many minutes worth of teaching has Driscoll taught? How many times has he offended your delicate sensibilities? Round up to 10 minutes for each item. Does it approach 2%? I doubt it.

  15. Frank’s latest post conceeds your point ms

    He compares what MD did to Micheal Vick, and the response of the NFL

    Of course, Vick has a contractual, work arrangement, which gives the NFL the right to impose requirments and restrictions.

    Just like Mars Hill has with MD…..

  16. T

    That is a typical frank exit, usually preceded by several clownings and bannings, after which he closes the thread by threatining the next commenter with a ban of a month. You know frank was DYING to do that here. He must be terribly frustrated by it all.

    Of course I wonder if he will apply that ban on commenting to himself as he then commented on the thread … goose, gander and all that….

  17. Frank: appreciate the scripture quote, v.7 and v.8 got me to thinking. “do not become partners with them…” and “walk as children of light”

    I dont’ see where anyone’s use of crudeness of speach would automatically put them in partnership with those who habitually use crude speech for the usual reasons. I’m as sick of our sex drenched culture as anyone, but I’m not prepared to throw MD under that bus because

    1)he wants to see the lost delivered from that culture, and seems to be doing a pretty good job of helping them out of it (maybe not to Frank’s taste, but WAHH)

    2)I’ll allow him some CONTEXT and INTENT to properly understant the joke and what he wanted to do with it. Not everyone’s teaching style, too graphic for the polyester golf pants set, but I dont’ see where he’s fallen afoul of the LORD”s commands here, cetainly not in a way that to warrant public censure.

    As to Frank’s question about masturbation jokes, my answer is NOT NECESSARILY. this isn’t a yes/no question, and wanting that kind of answer is FRANK’s problem.

  18. “How many times has he offended your delicate sensibilities? Round up to 10 minutes for each item. Does it approach 2%? I doubt it.”

    Hold on there! Let’s just take the “Oh, so offensive” interview that has Frank in knots. This interview lasted 7:28 or 448 seconds. Take out the 45 seconds DL spent on lead in and you’ve got 403 seconds. How long was Mark’s “highly offensive” joke? 13 seconds. So that’s 3.2% of the total interview and so clearly it exceeds Frank’s tolerance threshold.

  19. AoibhinnGrainne says

    Remember gnosticism? The old idea that Spirit was pure but Flesh was nasty? I sense that in Turk’s postings re: Driscoll’s preaching. Thou shalt not teach publicly about (marital) sex. It offends our pure washed-with-the Blood spirits by pulling them down into the muck and mire of daily sinful life.

    Well, whilst we all know that daily life is, indeed, fraught with sin, there IS no separation between spirit and flesh; pure and impure. We are holistically formed folk. We cannot keep our minds lofty and untouched whilst taking things like sex, gluttony, and football and placing them in these little boxes…only to be opened in the dark, in private, away from Church and Life.

    One of the biggest problems in the Church, IMNSHO, is that She DOESN’T discuss sex…at all. Or that when a rare Pastor has the intestinal fortitude to do so, it is all dressed up in euphemisms and disclaimers as to be no talk about sex at all. So we have whole generations who have either learnt about sex from the worst possible sources (their peers, the movies, school and/or the farmyard) and without benefit of fitting it within God’s POV. We learn what sex is NOT to be, rather than what it is; we learn about what sexual activity is forbidden, rather than what sexual activity is celebrated. Sad, really.

    St Augustine was familiar with this Manichean approach. Too bad some millenia later it is still with us, as strong as ever, as we continue to espouse this neo-gnosticism: life lived in our heads is better than life lived fully engaged with dirt under our fingernails (from gardening, perhaps?) and sweat on our brows (draw your own conclusions!).

  20. My reply to Frank Turk’s 5 points.
    [A] I agree with another commenter. Eph. 5:3 speaks of sins we must not commit. Eph 5:4 may be more apt. Worth a discussion. I’m inclined to think that it would be better for Driscoll to save such talk for a smaller public. He may be right about how it will gain street cred among his own sort. He may be wrong about how it is taken in people from other cultural contexts.

    [B] Yes, sin must be repented of.

    [C] An elder must be blameless. This charge tells the duties of those who put him in charge. That is on the leadership of Mars Hill to deal with. Or any future church that would call him.

    [D] The public accountability was necessary in these instances [Jesus with Pharisees, Stephen with elders, Paul at Galatia] because the stakes were very high. It was the entire Gospel at stake in the given location. If what Driscoll did was this grave, that needs to be argued carefully. If the perceived gravity comes from Ephesians 5:3, some careful exegesis is in order.

    [E] Yes, public teachers should be able to hold other teachers accountable. If you invite Driscoll into your church and he teaches falsely, by all means rebuke him. But the examples raise some interesting speculations. Had it been the Internet Age, do you imagine St. Paul would have confronted the Super Apostles in a blog post? I rather doubt it. Generally, even the letters were instructions for local leaders to handle things, or threatening a reckoning when Paul arrived on scene. I think this provides an applicable model for using the internet. We may use it as a tool, but it should be used to facilitate work done in person.

  21. Wcrila said “the world isn’t watching” and I could not disagree more. The world is watching. Try placing a “google alert” for MD. The world is watching, and talking and blogging. Take a trip to a University campus sometime, people know who MD is. And I don’t mean just evangelical young men.

    I don’t know how I feel about a “global watchdog” but, I know for me, I am going to try and do everything I can be above reproach. Will I be perfect? Not a chance. But it is still worth trying. I think it is a very immature point to make that no one cares about what church superstars are doing and saying. You are always a light on a hill. Your words are always a mouth piece. The bigger the platform, the bigger the responsibility. Sure, there will always be stuffy evangelicals who will rip anyone apart behind the veil of a computer screen.

    But raising light on these subjects is important, not needless.

  22. Who is being led to Christ and by Whom? .

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