It’s not often that I get annoyed when reading the EN newspaper (Evangelicals Now), because on the whole it’s pretty good, you know it’s sound, and usually very interesting… unlike the Church of England Newspaper, that gets me annoyed some times. But I got a bit annoyed when reading the most recent edition (April 2008), specifically Josh Moody’s ‘Letter from America’.
This piece is yet another “We like Mark Driscoll’s theology, but we don’t like his style” piece, of which you’ll find plenty across the web. It’s not that I have a problem with people who disagree with MD, it’s just that I find it sad that people insist on criticising a faithful gospel ministry, and for what gain? On top of that, this particular piece is about 2 years behind the times, essentially it is poorly researched.
The Internet Monk has some detailed thoughts about why people don’t like Mark Driscoll, worth reading if you’re a critic. For my part I’ve responded to the editor of EN to perhaps give a different perspective, doubt it will get published, but I have a blog, so here is my response published here…
Can I graciously suggest that Josh Moody is out of date, and perhaps out of touch when he writes about Mark Driscoll in the April edition of EN. Driscoll was given the dubious title of ‘The Cussing Pastor’ by Donald Miller in his book ‘Blue Like Jazz’, this was published 5 years ago. I’ve yet to hear Driscoll swear in a sermon, though his language in the past has certainly been more risqué, it is not what we would call swearing – ‘B.S.’ is of course just two letters! Since then Driscoll has I guess become more ‘mature’, he has publicly repented of many failures in his ministry, most recently when teaching on Humility (4th November 2007). As for the call for mentors, Driscoll counts John Piper and CJ Mahaney as his closest ministry mentors (2nd March 2008), not to mention the likes of Bruce Ware, Tim Keller and Wayne Grudem – of course Piper did once say ‘crap’ in a sermon! Moody here seems to be telling us about the Driscoll of several years ago.
There is much that could be said in response to Moody’s criticisms of Driscoll’s missiology of being ‘theologically conservative and culturally liberal’, but it would be unwise to debate the rights and wrongs of different forms of entertainment. The point here is that the proclamation of the gospel needs to be related to the context in to which it is preached. Paul, preaching to the Areopagus in Acts 17 gives a classic example of this gospel-contextualisation, this passage is key to Driscoll’s methodology and the name of his church (Mars Hill) is derived from it. Driscoll is preaching to young, liberal, post-modern, pagan Seattle-ites, people who listen to secular rock music, who watch R-rated films, who gamble, who drink, who get their teaching about sex from porn rather than the Bible – it is in to this culture that Driscoll preaches. While some call for a retreat from this kind of sinful culture, Driscoll and others are calling Christians, to engage with, to be a part of, and to understand the culture so that we can be missionaries within it. Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., writing in a recent book (Preaching the Cross) put it like this, “We cannot simply withdraw. That would be to deny our commission. But we cannot feel at home either. That would be to deny our identity.” Driscoll is equally clear in his teaching that Christians need to be distinctive and above reproach in all matters, his view is that Christians should “go as far into the culture without sinning as they possibly can”, in order to share Christ. I would challenge EN readers to consider reading Driscoll’s first book entitled ‘Radical Reformission’ and make an informed opinion, about Driscoll, and about how we can best preach Christ in our culture.