Friday, March 27, 2009

Phil Johnson and Mark Driscoll, Part VI - Driscoll Honors His Critic

Today, Mark Driscoll offered an olive branch to Phil Johnson's esteemed mentor John MacArthur by posting an tribute to him. He says the reason he did this was to honor John. (source) After Phil Johnson's message at the Shepherd's Conference Mark has been quiet.

But why the need for an olive branch? Well, in the past, MacArthur, has been openly critical of Driscoll. Quoting from Pulpit Magazine December 11, 2006, he says:

"Worldly preachers seem to go out of their way to put their carnal expertise on display—even in their sermons. In the name of connecting with “the culture” they want their people to know they have seen all the latest programs on MTV; familiarized themselves with all the key themes of “South Park”; learned the lyrics to countless tracks of gangsta rap and heavy metal music; and watched who-knows-how-many R-rated movies. They seem to know every fad top to bottom, back to front, and inside out. They’ve adopted both the style and the language of the world—including lavish use of language that used to be deemed inappropriate in polite society, much less in the pulpit. They want to fit right in with the world, and they seem to be making themselves quite comfortable there. Mark Driscoll is one of the best-known representatives of that kind of thinking. He is a very effective communicator—a bright, witty, clever, funny, insightful, crude, profane, deliberately shocking, in-your-face kind of guy. His soteriology is exactly right, but that only makes his infatuation with the vulgar aspects of contemporary society more disturbing." (source)

Today, however, Mark pays a tribute to John MacArthur on the Resurgence weblog, entitled: "John MacArthur on Bible Teaching". He says,

"If memory serves me correctly, I was first introduced to MacArthur’s teaching ministry when I heard him on the radio as a new Christian. I went on to listen to literally hundreds of his sermons on cassette (yes, I am old enough to remember cassettes). His radio program recently includes what I believe is a new twist—answering questions from the people in his church. In my opinion, this is some of his richest teaching because he blends his knowledge of the Bible with affection for his people and the occasional insight from his own life and childhood, all of which is quite compelling. " He concludes his post by saying, "For these and many more reasons, I want to honor MacArthur in our tributes this week."

It should be noted that John MacArthur and Phil Johnson have reciprocated words of commendation for Mark Driscoll in the past. For example, Phil says,

"This is the first time I have ever posted anything critical of Driscoll. I have appreciated his defense of the atonement and his willingness to confront the neo-liberalism of other Emerging leaders honestly." (source) MacArthur as observed above said, "his soteriology is exactly right." (source)

So what can we learn from this? One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is love (Galatians 5:22) and according to the Apostle Paul love actually "hopes all things" (1 Corinthians 13:7) i.e. sincerely desires to believe one another and to assign the best of all possible constructions upon what others have said and done. Remaining sin often makes that difficult. Nevertheless, we must seek to surmount the challenge. This means we need to be lovingly hopeful toward both Mark and Phil.

In light of the tribute Driscoll paid to MacArthur today, the rest of us have a renewed opportunity to test the hopefulness of our own love for Mark. Some may wish that this kind overture had gone further and had gotten there faster. That's understandable. But love is also patient. It waits upon God for progress in others, and then looks in the mirror and says,

"Lord, help me to be humbly patient with my brothers and righteously impatient with myself. I'm the one who needs to go further and get there faster. Please help others to be as patient with me as you have been!"

We can commend Mark for his humility and the offering of an olive branch toward one of his critics. Certainly we hope this kind of humility will continue to characterize both of these brothers. But for the rest of us, we need to seize this as an opportunity for personal growth in the grace of humility.


Frank Turk said...

I have a different opinion about Driscoll's tribute today: it's a dodge -- a tactic to avoid actually addressing the questions raised by Dr. MacArthur and those who minister with him.

See: all Mark Driscoll is love on this honorable and venerable man, but all John MacArthur does is grumpy and stogy and (in Driscoll's words) "hopeless and loveless". Which, of course, creates the idea that if MacArthur is venerable and honorable, why would he do that?

It's a passive-aggressive tactic -- avoiding the issue, and avoiding saying what one means in order to shift the blame from "things I can fix myself" to "things the other person ought to be ashamed of, real or imagined".

It is entirely reasonable, if you ask me, for Mark Driscoll to ignore watchbloggers (who is not ignoring watchbloggers?), theobloggers, kids who are overly-enthusiastic about paedocommunion, name-callers, people who don't go to church because they are more holy than God's people assembled together, church-hoppers, and whatever list of self-important smack-talkers you care to make. It is another entirely to, allegedly, "pay tribute" to someone like John MacArthur with one's lips but to ignore his concerns for you as "hopeless and loveless".

If John MacArthur is worthy of tribute, especially regarding the Lordship controversy which is listed specifically in that tribute, then his questions about whether or not one takes Christ's Lordship seriously by persuing and exemplifying holiness in the pulpit are worth answering.

I have a track record of wanting to offer Mark Driscoll the benefit of the doubt because, frankly, I like him. I am myself like him, and I understand the urge to do the things he does. But what has happened here is that he is seeking to make John MacArthur the bad guy when his own mouth is making the one using it bad.

2¢ worth.

Nithya said...

That is a pretty negative construction. It does not appear to be loving or charitable at all. This is mere conjecture on your part. How do you know Mark is not being humble. Are you basing this exclusively on his track record? How well do you know Mark?

To call this a "passive-aggressive trick" is a bit stunning to me. You realize that Mark said on his Twitter page (that this blog links) that he did that to "honor John MacArthur" Driscoll, said this was his desire. So, I am sure you did not intended this, but what you are saying is that Mark is actually lying. What you are saying effectively is that Mark stated on his Twitter page that he wants to honor MacArthur, but that was just a lie, he really wants to dishonor him.

Frank, that seems like a very unloving misinterpretation of Mark, and actually just fundamentally in contradiction to what Driscoll has said. Do you really think he is lying?

Jonathan said...

I think hearing how Mark responds to Phil (in that video) will be extremely helpful in understanding his overall posture toward both his critics and the criticism he has received.

Dan Lane said...

Mr. Turk,

Can you provide reference for this quote: "See: all Mark Driscoll is love on this honorable and venerable man, but all John MacArthur does is grumpy and stogy and (in Driscoll's words) "hopeless and loveless".

My understanding is that when Dr. MacArthur made those comments about Driscoll, he had not up to the point contacted Driscoll personally. Am I mistaken on that?

Also, why would Pastor Driscoll writing a tribute to Dr. MacArthur be a dodge in the conflict between P. Johnson and Pastor Driscoll?

This is not a defense of Driscoll but genuine questions by someone who has been following this matter in hopes that both men would labor together for Christ rather than in opposition.

Thank you in advance for response.

C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

I have been following Driscoll in an offhand way since he he graduated from college. Rev. G. Martin, Mark's father in law was my pastor and a mentor of sorts when I was in high school and college.

My problem with Driscoll goes beyond his rhetoric. I have serious objections to his Christology. His working class metaphors used in describing Jesus are a hopeless distortion of what can be known from the historical record of Jesus in the Gospels.

What I am trying to say is, Driscoll's problem is a lot deeper than just his style of delivery.

Also, his hermeneutic is seriously flawed in regard to the Song of Songs. We can find poetry in the Psalms which advocates smashing the heads of your enemies childeren against the rocks. Do we make this a standard for christian ethics?

jennifer said...

I agree with Frank.