Enough Already!- The Continuing Saga of Evangelicals Attacking Driscoll

(Note: It has been brought to my attention since writing this that John MacArthur has made attempts to contact Mark Driscoll and deal with the issues that exist between them.  I am glad to hear that news and wish to repeal any critical comments I have made about MacArthur not doing so that appear in the article and comments below.) 

The twists and turns of evangelicals bitter affair with Mark Driscoll have been well-documented here (1, 2, and 3) as has my unwavering support of his ministry in Seattle and acround the world.  Now, with the recent passing of the 2009 edition of John MacArthur’s Shepherd’s Conference, the harsh light of interrogation has turned once more to Pastor Driscoll and his “language” in the pulpit.

First, and I wish to say this just as a confession, I have often found myself at odds with John MacArthur and those who follow closely to his beliefs.  Beyond the fact that I think Reformed Dispensationalism in the Dallas Theological Seminary tradition makes absolutely no sense, I think that Dr. MacArthur tends to be awfully arrogant and presumptuous in promoting it.  More than that, however, I take issue with his extreme moral positions.  From issues of alcohol use to those of contextualization, Dr. MacArthur and his followers often times have presented themselves, at least in my estimation, wrongly as God’s final arbiters of what is biblical and what is not.  I typically find Marthur’s writings to be very informative, I own several and have benefited from them greatly, but there always comes a level at which I just don’t trust him.  This has only been compounded by his comments in 2006 about Driscoll which he has just let be tossed all about by evangelicals in print and on the net without him ever taking the opportunity to expound upon what he’d said or confront Driscoll with it himself.  I don’t like that– it reeks of self-importance and I find it to be awfully unhelpful to the greater cause of reaching people with the message of the gospel.

I share this first of all as a means of confessing what is probably on some level a sinful feeling in myself.  I don’t like disliking John MacArthur and his ministry, but more and more I find them to be guilty of the same self-aggrandizement and moral golden calfs as other evangelical establishments that MacArthur would likely preach against, and so I struggle to reconcile that.  

I also share this as a full disclosure before I refer you to a series of posts on Jonathon Christman’s blog The India I Know which address the recent exchange of feelings between Mark Driscoll and MacArthur disciple Phil Johnson.  As in prior Driscoll-related conflicts, Johnson’s beef with him has to do with pulpit behavior and does not really sound any different to me than anything anyone else has said.  However, this case is unique in that the full correspondance has been digitally immortalized by Christman including a direct and public response from Driscoll to the questions/charges.  Though I’m sure if you are like me you have had enough of this conflict, it is interesting to see Driscoll directly reply to it finally.

I do not necessarily mean to support all or any views on Christman’s site, but due to his diligent work in getting this up I ask that you visit the posts on his blog to see for yourself what is going on.  Check out the posts here: Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII

13 Responses to “Enough Already!- The Continuing Saga of Evangelicals Attacking Driscoll”

  1. Keith Walters Says:

    I think you have to view this in light of the fundamentalism movement. I think that in an effort to preserve the ministries at GTY, TMS, and GCC they are beginning to take fortified positions against those theological positions which they see as dangerous. I don’t think this is anything new; MacArthur has constantly called individuals and ministries which are false into question. Early on it was charismaticism, easy believism, the health wealth and prosperity gospel, and recently the emergent church. The only issue now is that they are attacking Driscoll and a lot of people like him. So I don’t this is out of character for this ministry. Nor do I think they deserve as much criticism as they have received. Yes, I disagree with them at some points but at other points I strongly disagree with Driscoll.

    Do I think that they should agree to disagree in the same way they do with Sproul’s infant baptism, Mohler’s historical premillennialism, and Mahaney’s charismaticism? Yes, but for some reason they don’t and that is very disappointing. Yet at the same time I find it equally disappointed that individuals would discount the ministry and work of one of the greatest expositors of our time.

    On the alcohol issue attending TMS actually helped me break free of my cultural fundamentalism and see that alcohol is not a sin. I think their position on alcohol is more biblical than the one taken by our SBC seminaries; my TMS student handbook has a section on discerning gray areas rather than the all out prohibition advocated at SBC schools (unless you use alcohol in communion of course). On an odd note TMS prohibits the use of tobacco and to my knowledge the SBC schools do not, but whatever.

    What is so “awfully arrogant and presumptuous” about promoting Reformed Dispensationalism? Is R. C. Sproul not equally arrogant and presumptuous in promoting Covenant Theology? I honestly don’t understand your comment. I do not wholly agree with Dispensationalism nor Covenant Theology, but I understand why their respective proponents promote it and am confused as to why that is arrogant.

    P. Chase,
    What do you think???

  2. Todd Burus Says:

    Thanks for your comments/concern. To start, I admit that saying “awfully arrogant and presumptuous” about MacArthur’s promotion of Reformed dispensationalism may have been too far. The thought I was wishing to express is that I feel it is difficult to get much out of MacArthur’s commentaries and sermons at times unless you hold to the exact same covenantal convictions that he does (which, let’s admit, is a minority opinion even among Calvinists). I do not feel that guys like Piper and Driscoll require as close an adherence to their own personal beliefs to be beneficial as he does.

    This also plays out in general for me with MacArthur and his writings. I almost stopped reading his commentary on Acts because every time a spiritual sign or wonder was performed (which is quite often in that book) MacArthur found it necessary to add yet another paragraph about how these gifts had ceased with the passing of the apostles. It was just obnoxious and after awhile felt like he was simply touting his own prowess since every paragraph came with a reference to his book Charismatic Chaos.

    (As a note, I find Sproul to be a little too self-assured to be beneficial from time to time as well.)

    My big issue with MacArthur on Driscoll is that I feel like he has allowed for a firestorm of misrepresentation and gossip to be created by his comments in 2006 and has never had the integrity to take them to Driscoll personally or to readdress the matter in a productive way. It feels to me like he thinks he is too big to be bothered by that. What’s sad is that similar comments are not widely known from him concerning people who really are dangerous like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones. Allowing Driscoll to be clumped in with heretics like this is irresponsible on the behalf of MacArthur and it really makes me jaded as to how much MacArthur actually cares about reaching people with the truth and not just his own truth. Remember, it is his comments that outlets such as Baptist Press have used to railroad Driscoll and discount his ministry to a larger evangelical audience. That is a shame and I feel like Phil Johnson’s recent “outreach” to Driscoll is just perpetuating the stigma even more.

    Like I said, I have benefited from MacArthur and am sure I will again in the future, but the “last bastion of truth” persona I feel is often exuded from his camp makes it hard for me to respect him sometimes.

    I hope this clarifies why I said some of the things I did in this article.

  3. Jonathan Says:

    Hey guys, just a quick word. I hope these brothers can reconcile in the long run for the glory of Christ. Until then, just wanted you to know I posted my last piece today and concluding remarks.


    Also, you may want to know that MacArthur did write Driscoll and personal letter and tried to make contact with him. I also have that letter. I did not publish it because the most recent issue was between Driscoll and Johnson.

    • Todd Burus Says:

      Thank you for your comment and for the work you have done in assembling this series. Thank you for sharing that information about MacArthur. It makes me feel better knowing that and I will make sure to note it up-front so that my words won’t stand in false witness against MacArthur.

      I as well hope these two reconcile. I think that, just as Mahaney and Piper have done for Driscoll, MacArthur can help him to grow into the most effective minister that God has enabled him to be, and just maybe Driscoll can help MacArthur to better communicate with the younger emerging generation.

  4. Keith Walters Says:

    Did you see this: http://www.shepherdsfellowship.org/pulpit/posts.aspx?ID=4168

    I am waiting for the rest of the series before I draw conclusions. I hope he delineates between the actions of Driscoll and those who have tried to emulate him. And if anything I blame the escalation of this whole thing on all of the people trying to one up Driscoll by proving that their church has the best sex or whatever.

  5. Todd Burus Says:

    Did you see Danny Akin’s sermon addressing this issue? I posted it here. He talks about how he didn’t even understand the extent to which these questions were brought up by young Christians these days until he was visiting a college campus and several young female students approached him about masturbation. My fear is that in all of MacArthur’s delight to not “rape” the Scriptures, he is neglecting to actually shepherd his people in the areas where they are most confused. And of course, if anything has led to this confusion it is fundamentalism’s extreme chastity and legalistic approach to sexuality, not anything Driscoll’s done. Thanks for the heads up on this.

    PS, I don’t like the fact that he makes it sound like Driscoll is one of the ones who issues a “sex challenge” in his church. He should be more clear about that; hopefully he will be.

  6. Keith Walters Says:

    I haven’t heard Akin’s sermon, I will have to check it out soon, but I am not surprised to hear that he was surprised. I agree that the church in general has issues with a legalistic approach to sexuality to the degree that it impugns a biblical understanding of sexuality within marriage. At the same time I know people who have taken a far too liberal approach to the subject; by revealing way too much personal information. Driscoll does not do that, I have not heard him talk dirty about his wife, from what I have heard he sticks to explaining the text. There are points where I disagree with what he explains the text to say but I appreciate that he has studied and is focused upon remaining faithful to the text.

  7. Todd Burus Says:

    You should listen to it, he starts making the Driscoll comments with about 22 minutes left in the message.

    To be honest, I love Danny Akin (Akin for SBC Pres 2010!) and even though I know Southern is the best seminary in the SBC (the world?) I had to take a second look at Southeastern simply because of the things Danny is doing there right now and the environment that is engulfing that area. Do you listen to JD Greear? He is another person in that Raleigh-Durham triangle who is really tearing it up. It is exciting to see how God is using SEBTS and the ministries around it to influence so many people.

  8. Keith Walters Says:

    I have heard of Greear but never taken the time to listen or read, maybe I need to clear some blogs off my feed reader!

  9. Todd Burus Says:

    His blog is okay, but usually I just listen to his sermons. It is The Summit Church. The first one I listened to by him was actually his message on Romans 9 at the Building Bridges conference. When I was in Raleigh in February I got to meet him and go to his church and was really impressed. Him and Matt Chandler are the two guys I see carrying the young generation of SBC pastors as long as the old guard doesn’t run them off (which I don’t believe they will). I know JD is going to be preaching at the Pastor’s Conference during the convention week. I think Chandler might also. That will definitely be worth going to see.

  10. Todd Burus Says:

    Btw, they (Greear and Chandler) will both also be in Raleigh with Piper, Driscoll, Akin, and others for a conference the first week of June called Advance ’09. I don’t think I will make it up there, but I imagine it will be the best conference of the year. It is all about the local church, so us Baptists should feel right at home.

  11. …a gracious response to criticism « (resonance of reforming) Says:

    [...] I’m not really intending to weigh in here, only to say that there’s plenty of story to read up on if you’re interested in what it looks like when brothers attack … [...]

  12. Sarita Weiderhold Says:

    I heard that he that he wanted do a Home and Away cameo lmao. Sounds a bit dodgy to me. There’s a part of me that kind of wishes this is true lol.

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