You know, I probably would’ve been better off going to church this morning, rather than listening to the UK interview that Justin Brierley conducted with Mark Driscoll late last year. An interview that created an interweb brouhaha this past week and prompted my previous post.
So at 9:30 this morning, with the 1st cup of coffee brewed in my Aerobie Aeropress, I sat down with the interview. Three cups of coffee and two hours later, I began fixing the notes below. (NB. The first 5 minutes of the podcast linked to are Justin talking about said brouhaha.)
The reason I went through this interview is not because I have any particular bone to pick with Mark Driscoll. I don’t know Mark personally, but I do recognize the impact he is having on a particular population of the church and some of that impact is cause for concern. (I should note that I am the father of a 25 year old son, a 23 year old son and a daughter who turns 21 on Tuesday— all three of whom are practicing Christians.)
As well, Mark plays fast and loose with the truth in his blog response to the brouhaha created by excerpts from his interview. Those excerpts first reported by Christian Today (and their contextual veracity supported by Christianity magazine who originally requested the interview) which, after listening to the interview, were reported accurately and without prejudice.
The interview in question had nearly nothing to do with the book or its subject matter, which in my understanding was supposed to be the point of the interview. My wife, Grace, was almost entirely ignored in the interview, and I felt she was overall treated disrespectfully. The only questions asked were about any controversial thing I have ever said in the past 15 years with a host of questions that were adversarial and antagonistic. It felt like a personally offended critic had finally gotten his chance to exercise some authority over me.
Justin’s interview with Mark and Grace Driscoll begins with him explaining what Christianity magazine wants to do with the interview. This includes not just talking about the book Real Marriage, but also talking about Mars Hill, “using it for a profile interview for yourself, Mark.” Driscoll responds, “Yeah that’s great, happy to do so.”
And in terms of Grace, who Mark claims was disrespected, Justin says, “and Grace, just feel free to put your voice forward whenever you like in the course of the recording.” As Grace has the same communications degree as Mark, one would think Justin’s statement would be license for full participation on her part.
In the 1st part of the interview, Mark responds to a question about complementarianism with what might generally be called “a soft-complementarianism” response. But what I find interesting in this is that he doesn’t talk about the need for young men and young women to be properly discipled — they simply need to be preached at.
I recognize that this may be projection, based on my own experience with leaders like Mark, but he seems to suggest that if guys would just listen to his preaching and do what he tells them to do then things would be right with the church.
Mark responds to the question on sexual practices, when he is asked whether he’s in the position to make the statements he makes, by saying,
“I’m a Bible teacher, and if anyone wants to disagree with me, they can argue biblically and I’ll be glad to do so.”
At this point I would strongly state that if anyone’s being adversarial and disrespectful in this interview, it would be Mark. He accuses the interviewer of being adolescent and immature,
”You’re not being fair, you’re being sort of scandalous and being immature about the issues. You’re going for one or 2 pages in the book where we answer very common questions that Christians have and you’re trying to put a little shock around for the radio. And, as a pastor, I’m trying to answer the questions people have.”
I hear Mark responding like a bully, in rather condescending tone. He insults the interviewer rather than accepting the legitimacy of the question. Who exactly is disrespectful here? (This happens at approximately the 17:20 min. mark of the podcast.)
Mark suggests later in the interview that most Christians don’t think biblically — they think emotionally or culturally. <Snark on> But, of course, Mark, with the correct exegesis of the Scriptures, does think biblically. So really you shouldn’t question what he has to say if you claim to be Christian. It’s not that Mark believes the Scriptures are inerrant, he believes his interpretation is inerrant. In my not humble opinion, of course. <Snark off>
As the interview continues, I note that Mark tends to go on at length, rarely allowing the interviewer to get a word in edgewise.
In response to a question about Ted Haggard and this story, Mark claims in what can only be heard as rather bald-faced prevarication, that he never said anything about the Haggard situation,
“I didn’t say anything about the Haggards, and I regret what happened in their marriage and I grieve for that woman.” (At the 20:30 mark of the podcast).
By this point in the podcast, Mark has completely dominated the conversation. Justin finally directly asks Grace to respond at the 23 min. point. If anyone has disrespected Grace in this, it was Mark. He could have easily at any point in the first 18 min. of the interview said quite simply, ‘let me get Grace to respond to that.’ (Note again that the actual raw interview begins at the 5 min. point of this podcast.)
It’s at the 25 min. point of the podcast where Justin asks the question that triggers Marks response of ‘guys in dresses preaching to grannies’, etc.
A particular bizarre point from Mark in this section is the suggestion that most men either don’t have or haven’t had “a father“. Really?!
This after Mark has pointed out that UFC is something that attracts men — not guys in dresses preaching to grannies. When Justin suggests that ‘isn’t this simply appealing to culture’, Mark says that he takes on the role of “father or “drill sergeant“. And this is done from the platform as he says, “I speak for an hour+”.
This, to me, is more of the rather bizarre and simply destructive idea that discipleship takes place from the pulpit. Let me be blunt. It doesn’t. Discipleship is one-on-one or at the very least one with a few. Not one standing before 16,000 live and via satellite.
Let me take a moment to confront this as Mark is not the 1st person from whom I’ve heard this kind of nonsense. At a Canadian church where I was once a senior staff person, the person who was in charge of an exploding youth ministry told me how he was informed by the senior pastor that discipleship programs were unnecessary for new believers. To grow they only needed to come hear him speak on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings. The fallacy of pulpit as discipler. (I deal with this issue at length in a blog post called Sermons Don’t Make Disciples)
Further along in the podcast, Mark admits that perhaps he goes too far, but in his words most leaders are “timid and fearful”. Mark sets himself up as the antidote to what ails the church. I find this simply sad.
Mark states categorically that “what you are doing is not working” after saying that “you don’t need to do what I’m doing.” And Mark’s prescription for ‘what’s not working’ is the need to have a young, celebrity-preacher preaching in the UK. Someone like Mark himself, no doubt.
There’s little doubt in the interview that Justin is asking questions that deal with Mark’s history. He’s doing it lightly and with a smile and it almost comes across as playful bantering. This is nothing like what Mark claims was adversarial and it is typical for a journalist, Christian or otherwise. (I also have a degree in Radio and Television Arts from “one of the top” schools in the world or is that, universe.)
And in light of Mark’s whinging blog post about this interview, might I rudely suggest that if anyone needs to ‘man up’ its Driscoll.
Justin brings up Mark’s comments about not being willing to worship “a limp-wristed Jesus“. Mark responds by saying that the whole reason he is on Justin’s show is because he says “things that are interesting.” Is it too much for me to suggest that Mark reveals his heart here. He says ‘interesting things’ for their notoriety or more accurately his notoriety.
Is this the heart of the celebrity-driven pastor or more accurately again, a celebrity-driven church leader because where exactly is he acting as a shepherd? (This at the approximately 30 min. point.) As Justin so succinctly puts it, “is there not a danger of you becoming the sort of Shock Jock of the Pulpit.”
When Justin confronts Mark about the fact that Jesus did not put up a fight at the Cross and in fact he was beaten up, Mark deflects the question by talking about how Jesus will return in the 2nd Coming — looking to the apocalyptic visions of John in the Book of Revelations.
Does Mark struggle with Jesus, the Lamb of God? What does this say about Mark’s own understanding of what a man is? Incredibly Mark translates Jesus returning as “not to take a beating, but to give a beating.” Must be from the UFC translation.
It’s at times like this that I almost agree with Martin Luther and question whether John’s apocalyptic vision should even be in the Scriptures, when it is abused in this manner.
In one of those peculiar, particular Markisms that leaves one scratching one’s head, Mark compares himself to Hudson Taylor, the great China missionary of the 19th and early 20th century. Although no doubt he’ll deny that’s what he meant. Perhaps English isn’t my 1st language.
At about the 39 min. of the podcast, after being confronted with quotes from John MacArthur, Mark says that he’s always willing to publicly repent, to be corrected, and it’s important to model humility. Oddly this doesn’t go far in explaining his blog response to this actual interview. Humility? Not so much.
Mark in his blog post says that, based on this interview, he and Grace now have new requirements for people who are interviewing them. He doesn’t want to go through this again.
With the release of our book, Real Marriage, we have now done literally dozens of interviews with Christians and non-Christians. But the one that culminated in the forthcoming article was, in my opinion, the most disrespectful, adversarial, and subjective. As a result, we”ve since changed how we receive, process, and moderate media interviews.
This seems to suggest Mark can’t handle the heat but he’s certainly willing to bring it — as long as he’s in control.
Justin does try a bit of a ‘gotcha moment’ when he asks Mark about a husband who has a wife who is a church leader. He asks Mark about ‘issues of authority’ in their relationship. Mark gives a typical Markian response about confused headship and church discipline problems — with Justin only then revealing that Justin’s wife is a church leader.
Mark’s immediate response is to ask about the size and the growth in Justin wife’s church and how many young man they have. Further asking what “kind” of young men they have — suggesting this kind of church would only have effeminate men with a female leader.
At the 51 min. Mark states, “You look at your results and you look at my results and look at the variable that is the most obvious.” Mark claims that the church Justin’s wife leads is small because it’s led by a woman and Mars Hill is big because it’s led by a man. It’s amazing how important penises are for church growth. (And here I thought Calvinists believed that it was exclusively the Holy Spirit who awakened people to Christ – only a select few, of course.)
Hellish Portion of Interview
To say I’m stunned probably wouldn’t be accurate but at a certain point one becomes innurred to the bizarre way that Mark’s brain seems to work. As the interview begins to wind down around the 53 min. point, they are continuing their discussion of women in leadership, with Mark now interviewing Justin. Mark suddenly asks Justin where he stands on Eternal Conscious Torment and Justin’s understanding of Hell. Justin, taken aback by the comment, asks what this has to do with the discussion of women in leadership. He sees no connection. Mark strongly suggests ‘of course there’s a connection’. Because, ‘moms are nurturing and dads are strong and disciplining’.
Thus, if you see God calling a woman to be a leader then you have a more feminine view of God’s nature and therefore you don’t believe in hell. Pretzel Logic, n’est-ce pas? Good grief.
Mark goes on to berate Justin on Penal Substitutionary Atonement. Even when Justin is willing to say he believes in it — but that there are other orthodox ways of viewing the Cross. Mark insists Justin must commit solely to P.S.A. Driscoll is simply obnoxious on this point. Mark brags on his book that he has written on this topic. One might simply wish that rather than expound on his understanding of this particular theological topic he might read a lot more N.T. Wright — or if he finds N.T. confusing he may want to read some Tom Wright, instead.
At the 54.5 min. point in the podcast, the interchange goes like this, Mark: “But do you believe it” — “it” being penal substitutionary atonement. Justin responds, “Yes I do”. Mark says, “You sound like a coward when you say it.” Once again one wants to ask the question ‘Who’s being adversarial?’
And in the closing comments, Mark, who claims in his whinging blog post that it was an “adversarial and antagonistic” experience, says, “It was fun for me… I hope you recover.”
Justin laughs in response. Mark appears to be laughing as well, and then Justin apologizes to Grace by saying that he’s sorry they didn’t bring her in more. She says, “That’s all right.”
I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.
UPDATE: But do read this post on Leadership Immunity from Lance Ford – which he published earlier in the New Year – it’s prescient.