Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why I'm NOT a Fan of Mark Driscoll, Real Marriage, Mars Hill, Acts 29

Note in October 2014: You might like to read this news article with an update: Mark Driscoll has resigned from Mars Hill Church.  Since I wrote this blog post this in 2012, I've had well over 11,000 page views. This is astounding for such a small time blog. It is the single most visited post here, largely due to Google searches.  Many thanks, also, to Relevant Magazine for putting an embedded link in their article What Mark Driscoll Teaches Us About Grace and Accountability. So much has happened with Driscoll since I wrote the original post, and I can't even begin to keep up with it all. In March, World Magazine reported that Mars Hill paid the ResultSource firm over $200,000 of church money to manipulate sales statistics so that his Real Marriage would appear on the Best Sellers list. This is considered to be very unethical behavior. See here: Unreal Sales for Driscoll's Real Marriage.  During the summer, the Acts 29 church group removed Mars Hill from its membership and called on Driscoll to step down. Pastors at his own church filed ecclesiastical (in church) charges against him, and after a six weeks of stepping away from the pulpit, he resigned. That's the barest scoop. Fortunately, the ladies at Wartburg Watch keep their eye on him and link to other blogs that do the same. You can read their series of posts here: Mark Driscoll at Wartburg Watch.

While you're here, please take a peek at a related post, Wisdom Through the Church?  Feel free to look at my other blogs linked in the side bar, too.  One other article that seems to be quite relevant is one I wrote in November 2013, Vision Forum and Friends: Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.

I'd love to know your thoughts, so please leave a comment!

Now on to the original post!

Dear friends,

If you have read much of this site, you know I have had some experience with what I would consider to be an unhealthy church organization. Unfortunately, that organization is not alone in its troubles. Mark Driscoll is lead pastor of Mars Hill Church and president of the Acts 29 church planting network. [Update: Since I first posted this 10 days ago, he stepped down from leading Acts 29 and is handing over the reins to Matt Chandler.  See  A Note on Some Transitions. He is also resigning from leadership in The Gospel Coalition. See Driscoll Steps Down from TGC Council.] Driscoll has been in the news (including major secular media outlets) with the recent release of Real Marriage, the book he wrote with this wife Grace, which I do not intend to read. Unfortunately, he has also been facing serious allegations of spiritual abuse for many years.

I first heard of Mark Driscoll either because I saw his books in our former church's bookstore, or because a friend who knew I was researching problems in the Emerging Church movement, sent me a link to an insightful audio that Mr. Driscoll had produced on that subject. My first impressions of Driscoll were favorable, based on that limited exposure. Because of this, when I heard that he had released a free e-book for dads, I downloaded it to pass along to my husband. Browsing through it, I was extremely disheartened (actually rather disgusted) by his attitude toward women. Here is one of the offensive excerpts from Driscoll:

"Proverbs 19:13 further stresses the correlation between the type of mother you choose for your children and the kind of children you will have, saying, “A foolish son is ruin to his father, and a wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.” These two miseries simply go together. If a wife is a nag who disrespects her husband by chirping at him all the time, then the children in that home will follow her example and become fools who ruin their lives by similarly disobeying and dishonoring their dad. Wicked women not only fail to restrain their tongues in front of their children, but often intentionally attack their husbands in an effort to get their children’s allegiance, undermine the authority of their father, and bring anarchy to the home. Proverbs rightly calls this rottenness in the bones.... Whose responsibility is it? Ultimately, it is men who are responsible because they chose their wives, they let them continue in sin, and they let them destroy their children."
Dude!  So let me get this straight... If a wife is expressing her discontent to her husband in ways that are unpleasant to him, then the real problem is that she is a wicked woman and he has not corrected her firmly enough? Excuse me? Try again? How about this: if the wife is upset with her husband, he might have a really good reason to ask her what he has done wrong? Maybe he has been crass, demanding, unreasonable, obnoxious, and/or verbally & physically abusive? Or maybe there has been some sort of misunderstanding? Or maybe she has been cooped up with a bunch of noisy, messy kids all day, and she's losing her cool? (And then maybe he came home, took one look around, and asked what she had been doing all day?) But oh no! She's a wicked fool and needs her Knight in Shining Armor (whom she obviously does not deserve) to set her straight. I guess hubby better get some tips from Driscoll on taming his shrew. Oy. Unfortunately this is not just an isolated sound bit pulled out of context. It gets worse, much worse, the more I read on-line about other things he has said.   (Later note: You might like to read my related articles If You Expect Real Respect and Follow the Way of Love.)

Not surprisingly, my new impressions of Driscoll's ministry were quickly confirmed as I started to see a plethora of commentary about this very thing on-line, along with the accusations of spiritual abuse at Mars Hill. Much of it echoes the very same things that have happened in our former church organization, including dysfunctional church polity (government), authoritarian leadership, lack of accountability for top leadership, church discipline gone amuck, an overly intense focus on sin, misogynistic views of women, and much more. Oh, and the way Driscoll entirely dismisses preachers in Great Britain with: 

"Let’s just say this ... right now, name for me the one young, good Bible teacher that's known across Great Britain. You don’t have one – that is a problem. There's a bunch of cowards who aren’t telling the truth. You don't have one. You don't have one young guy who can preach the Bible that anybody's listening to on the whole earth."  

Then, too, with the release of his new book, there is a renewed concern about his graphic teachings on sex, and on his rough language in the pulpit.   (Later note: I wrote a post of My Thoughts on the Sexualization of the Church and Other Problems).

Needless to say, when it came time to look for a new church two years ago, I made a point to stay away from the Acts 29 churches in our area. I am seriously not amused.

Rather than me laying it all out from my limited perspective or even hunting up all of the Mark Driscoll quotes that make me shudder, I thought I would provide you with about two dozen web links that I have discovered in the past few years. I hope that this will be helpful to you, even if you don't read his books or participate in his ministry. It is a cautionary tale for Christendom. It's not just SGM or the IFB or Mars Hill, folks. Watch where you go and whom you allow to influence you!

Please note that I am giving you these links to use with your own God-given discretion. 

I do not agree with everything you will find at these sites.

Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill

Real Marriage Reviews and Media Appearances 
(Some favorable, some not, some mixed...)

  • Mark Driscoll’s Sex Manual ‘Real Marriage’ Scandalizes Evangelicals
  • Q & A: Mark and Grace Driscoll on Sex for the 21st-Century Christian at Christianity Today
  • Mark Driscoll on Piers Morgan – Interview Transcript
  • Review at Parchment and Pen (Credo House) mixed reaction
  • Review by Andy and Wendy Alsup at Practical Theology for Women  This review has positive and negative things to say about the book, and contains a lot of background info on the Mars Hill situation, as well as a call for Driscoll to repent.  One quote: "In Real Marriage, Mark acknowledges a past problem with pride, but he remains blind to his self-centered view of the church, the extent of his disqualifying anger problem, the true root causes of both in his life, and the long term effects that both have on those around him. When you can flippantly write off 1000 members in your church, including elders, deacons, and community group leaders, because (as he explains it) you're burnt out based on long standing bitterness and sexual frustration with your wife stemming from a sexual encounter when she was a teenager 19 years before—well, wow, I'm at a loss for exactly how to address that."
  • Review by Tim Challies  Excerpt: "Noticeably absent in this section is a firm and robust gospel grounding for marriage. Ephesians 5 is referenced only in passing; the marriage relationship as a mystery, a picture of Christ’s relationship to the church, is never clearly offered as the big picture or ultimate purpose of marriage. That gospel foundation is utterly, absolutely critical to an understanding of marriage and it is missing from Real Marriage. This is a tragic oversight. And I say “tragic” because the biblical understanding of marriage influences everything else—everything they discuss from chapter one to chapter eleven..... Mark’s abuse of The Song of Solomon has been widely noted and discussed, but he continues to treat it as a graphic sex manual. To treat it this way is to utterly miss the point."
  • Purity balls, Christian princess syndrome, and “mom” haircuts: evangelicalism’s mixed messages for women by Karen Campbell at www.thatmom.com.  An excerpt: "Recently reading excerpts from Mark Driscoll’s latest book along with seeing some of his teaching videos has left me feeling the need to retreat into a safe place and take a bubble bath for my very soul."
  • Mark Driscoll's 'Real Marriage' Draws Controversy for 'Invasive' Sex Talk  Excerpt of review: "This chapter has the potential to wreak havoc in such marriages where one spouse will feel a whole range of taboos to be 'permissible' if he can convince his spouse to participate," said Burk. "This to me seems like a recipe for marital disaster, and I do not think the Driscolls' requirement of 'helpfulness' mitigates the difficulty."
So there you go. Google for more.

Virginia Knowles

For those of you who missed them, here are the links to my own related articles that I mentioned in this post.