Mark Driscoll, you never fail to stir controversy!
With the release of his new book “Real Marriage” Pastor Mark Driscoll- lead teaching pastor at MarsHill church here in Seattle- has elicited a whole new batch of scathing criticisms.
The genesis of this blog post came from a friend who asked me my opinion of Driscoll and specifically his book Real Marriage. My friend has a few friends that are big fans of Driscoll and are going through the book in a small group format. My friend read through about 4 chapters of the book and found them to be “a piece of trash.” My friend is not a Christian and is gay, so naturally Driscoll would not speak to his/her experience too much.
First of all, I need to commend my friend for being willing to read through 4 chapters of a book on sexuality by Driscoll who is very vocally opposed to the lifestyle he/she lives. I am always pleased to find people who aren’t so entrenched in their own world that they refuse to research a differing opinion.
I need to come clean- I have yet to read his book and probably will not make time to do so for a few months. My reading time is jam-packed with school/ministry related reading. That being said, I am fairly familiar with Driscoll’s theology of sexuality, having read a few of his resources on the topic.
So, here goes!
My relationship with Driscoll goes back a number of years. My first introduction to him was in my junior year of high school.
As a Christian guy in high school one of the major issues you deal with is sexuality and how to reign it in in a healthy fashion. I attended a number of small groups that dealt with sexuality and how to properly handle it. I read through one book called “Every Young Man’s Battle,” which was, in my humble opinion, terribad. Then my roommates and I read through a free e-book published by RE:lit, the publishing section of Driscoll’s ministry The Resurgence, called “Porn-Again Christian.”
The booklet was everything that EYMB wasn’t. Frank, honest, insightful, and helpful. He didn’t just say, “the Bible says no, so that means no.” He gave solid psychological, medical, and relational reasons for his positions, grounded in the theology in the Bible. It changed my life for the better.
Before becoming a Christian I held a very poor view of women. My friends and I had a very detailed rating system for how attractive women were, based on categorical areas (butt, boobs, etc.) and an overall ranking. No semi-attractive girl escaped our scrutiny. This was an incredibly destructive view that robbed women of their status as a human being made in the image of God. It took me a long time to rid myself of this view- it required a lot of close friends being willing to walk down a difficult road and me yelling at myself quite regularly. Driscoll’s teaching in this area seriously helped me make sense of what I was experiencing. Driscoll has always been extremely good at speaking to young men, especially ones who are lost in a world that is increasingly hostile to traditionally masculine views of men. I know that statement alone is enough to frustrate some people, but bear with me.
One of the strongest criticisms leveled against Driscoll is that he subjugates women to a pre-feminism era. Driscoll holds what Christians call a “complementarian” position. For those who aren’t familiar with Christian positions on sexuality and gender roles, it is a very diverse “field” if you will. In terms of gender roles there are 3 major areas: 1.) Hierarchical 2.) Complementarian 3.) Egalitarian. In terms of sexuality there are pretty much 3 categories regarding homosexuality as well: 1.) Reparative (no better way to describe this, basically it’s the idea that you can become “ex-gay”, i.e. Exodus International) 2.) Semi Gay Affirming 3.) Gay affirming. The gender-roles debate has much more concrete terminology and is a much more developed field. The Christian gay debate is much younger and doesn’t have particularly well developed groups just yet- in fact my nomenclature is sort of made up for it, so don’t hold on too tightly to it.
This is an incredibly deep topic. Far far too deep for me to attempt to address in a single blog post. The topic of gender-roles/sexuality is so intimately related to the human experience that it has massive implications for a variety of areas. I will try to give a brief overview of the whole topic and hopefully provide some resources for further study. I’m also willing to write further posts expanding my views if anyone is interested.
I don’t have time to outline each of the 3 positions for both gender-roles and homosexuality, so I will pick the ones I think Driscoll fits best. He is a self-identifying “Complementarian” and is a regular contributor to that conversation. I would also say Driscoll likely holds a semi gay affirming position, but I’m not going to hang my hat on it.
Here are a couple of resources regarding the gender-roles debate. The hierarchical position honestly isn’t held very often and in my opinion is not Biblically tenable in any way, shape, or form. For transparency’s sake, I will come out that I am a complementarian in the area of family. Not sure about ministry just yet. Anyway, here are the resources:
Driscoll’s theology of marriage and family would no doubt start in Genesis 1 and 2. Since this part of the Bible deals with original creation, it is the place to find out what the ideal is. Creation was made perfect (in the most sense that perfect can describe finite things like creation), so for the Christian it is the place to find the original plan for humanity.
Genesis 1:25 tells of God’s plan to make mankind to “rule” over creation- the implication is that “ruling” is to be done together. Then in v. 26 it says God created man (humanity) and he created them “male” and “female.” Driscoll and complementarians would look to this passage as an example of “equality in essence.” What that means is that male and female are equal in created worth. Meaning that men and women are equally valuable in the sight of God and each are made uniquely by God. Later on, in Chapter 2 we find a more detailed record of how man and woman were created. God formed man out of some dust and placed him in the Garden of Eden. God then decided it wasn’t good for man to be alone so he performed surgery on man, took a rib and made a woman out of it. Then man saw her and named her “woman.”
This naming bit is important, because in ancient near east culture, the ability to name someone/something designated authority over him/her/it. This is why God changes Abram’s name to Abraham, Jacob’s to Israel, Saul to Paul and plenty others. An egalitarian would say that this hierarchy only existed because of the Fall, but the naming occurred both before (man names her woman) and after the fall (Adam names her Eve). This would mean that the ability to name, and thus have some measure of “authority” is given to man in the ideal condition.
Woman is also said to have been given as a “helper” to man. This word, in the original Hebrew is etzer. It is the same word used to describe God as “helper” later, so it shouldn’t be interpreted as a helper from a position of inequality. This part of the text has been used in the past to abuse women and tell them they’re lesser- this is flat-out wrong and extremely damaging to women. It does give some measure of justification for Driscoll’s position of women sacrificing some of their own ambitions for the goals of the family/ marriage. This is not a popular position in society anymore, especially given the rise of second/third wave feminism that has had a very heavy emphasis on women climbing the work-place ladder. Christians have to be careful not to anachronize their interpretation of the Bible, however, so Driscoll and complementarians would argue that it is short-sighted and misplaced to assume that women’s sole role is to be in the workplace.
Furthermore, Driscoll would probably look at Gen 3:8-9, after the eating of the fruit by man and woman as an example of man’s responsibility to his wife. After they ate the forbidden fruit, God came looking for man. God who already knew what they did came asking for man, “where are you?” Even though woman ate first, God expects man to give an account of their actions, meaning that he was responsible for his wife’s actions. This is where complementarians would see men as completely responsible for the well being of their families- not women. Later, woman was punished for her misdeeds, but man was ultimately held responsible for her actions.
Later, in the New Testament Driscoll would look to Ephesians 5:21-33 as another example of where gender roles are clearly outlined in the Bible. Verse 21 starts out, “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This is really important to keep in mind, especially for you Christian men out there. You are to submit also to your wives. It’s not like you get to have all the say and she has to just follow along like a sheep. You are responsible for your family’s well being- that means when you screw up, you are held to account for it.
Then it goes on to tell wives to submit to their husbands like the church submits to Christ. This one is pretty clear. Neither Driscoll nor I will make apologies for the Bible. Christian wives are to submit to their husbands “in everything.” Doesn’t sound good to our modern, progressive ears but it’s there and I won’t make any bones about it. More importantly though, especially since Paul spends a lot more time talking about it, husbands must love their wives like Christ loved the church… which last time I checked required an incredible amount of sacrifice and finally death. That’s the funny thing about the complementarian position: it gets marked as being misogynistic, but really it places far more responsibility and weight on man’s roles. Men are supposed to sacrifice their own lives for the good of their brides and families. That means putting down your controllers, stop watching porn, get a job and take care of your family (wow… I feel like Driscoll right now… but he’s right on this).
This is where Driscoll would get a lot of his theology from. It’s not progressive in any sense and may not even be conclusive. The Bible can often be taken out of context, but I’ve tried to give the clearest Biblical reasons for his position. Since I hold this position myself, I don’t think it’s exactly a straw man.
Now the next part is far, far, trickier. The debate on how Christians ought to address the issues brought up by the queer community is a very delicate one. The thing about these theological positions is that they aren’t simply mental assents to doctrinal positions- they intimately effect every aspect of people’s lives. Brian McLaren put it best when somebody asked him where he stood on the issue of homosexuality when he said, “No matter how I answer this question, someone will end up being hurt.” This question deeply affects many people, many of whom are my close friends. When addressing this question, a grace-filled heart and understanding mind are the best tools to dialog without offending.
First off, I cannot apologize enough for how the church at large has treated the queer community. We have isolated homosexuality in particular and it’s been detrimental and harmful at best. I have a great number of friends who have been so turned off from faith because of how Christians have treated them or others they know who are gay, so to them I apologize. Also, there is a lot of language that needs to be learned to adequately engage in this dialog. I find that’s the most difficult thing for me. Political correctness is probably one of my least favorite things on the planet, yet I know the impact that language has on people, so I really try to make sure I’m not saying anything flippantly or without thought. If I offend anyone I apologize. If Driscoll offends anyone… well, let’s face it, offending is what he does best, but I apologize for him too.
Now, on to this issue, and hopefully painting Driscoll’s position the best I can. In places where I’m not sure about his position I’ll give my opinion.
This debate about how Christians approach this topic has often been sidetracked by stupid side debates that are absolutely unhelpful. I always try to be careful about which hills I’m willing to die on as a Christian. I hate culture wars. I think they’re so stupid and I think Christians waste valuable time engaging in culture war that they could be spending ministering to the poor, broken, disenchanted, or the hurting. That being said, one of the biggest and most ridiculous of all parts of the culture war of this debate is the “born/not born gay.”
I cannot tell you how ridiculous this is. For the Christian, absolutely NOTHING rests on proving this. In fact, it actually works against us. The logic for many Christians is this: God would never create someone in such a way that they would be gay, therefore it must be a choice, therefore gays are all choosing to be in sin.
This logic, frankly, sucks. It won’t work in any other area of people sinning. ALL have sinned! Not a single person is without it. God created us all and we are all sinful. God’s original plan for us was not to be sinful, but we screwed it up. Adam sinned and we have all chosen to walk in his footsteps. So Biblically speaking, you should have no problem accepting that gays are born with the natural predisposition to sin in such a manner (if you hold that it’s a sin), just like teenage boys are more likely to sin sexually in general. Also, psychology is pretty much conclusive that homosexual feelings are not behavioral/chosen, but are feelings that cannot be stopped. Gay folks cannot escape those feelings- they are often genetic even. I have a number of family members who are gay or bisexual at the least, genetics can play into the equation.
That being said, Driscoll would argue that any sexual activity that is outside God’s original design pre-fall is sinful. This means lustfully looking at people, fantasizing, viewing pornography, homosexuality, premarital sex ,and adultery. It is essential to view homosexuality in light of what the Bible says about sexuality as a whole. This is why it can’t be isolated. That means that homosexuality is absolutely no different, Biblically speaking, than checking out a woman and thinking about her sexually. That being said, Driscoll would say that homosexual activity is not permitted by the Bible (I would agree). Similarly, however, that doesn’t mean that those who have same-sex attractions cannot be Christian. I hate that so much. Christians talk about how we are saved by grace and not by works all the time- if you have lied, cheated, stolen, slept around, whatever it may be, then Jesus is enough. If you do it while you’re a Christian, just repent, get some accountability and keep going. But if you’re gay, you’re pretty much lost. I HATE this so much.
Anyway, this is still extremely difficult for the queer community especially because it leaves you with two choices, really. You can find a completely gay affirming church and pray that God sees your heart, or you have to basically live a celibate life. I can’t imagine what that must look like. I truly feel for those of my friends who have faith in Christ but are unable to engage in relationships with people they are attracted to.
That being said once again Driscoll and I can’t apologize for what the Bible has to say on this topic. Obviously there can be a difference of opinion on interpretation, and I’m totally up for debate on that subject. I’ve earnestly reviewed gay affirming interpretations, yet I cannot see how the position can be held with any consistency on how the Bible is interpreted.
That being said, here is another good resource for people with questions regarding this topic:
All in all, this topic is very delicate and I pray that everyone can talk about this with gentleness, love, and humility.
Regarding that… Driscoll recently was interviewed by a British journalist and made quite the fool of himself. Granted, the blogger clearly had an agenda and was badgering Driscoll to the point of losing his temper. I don’t think the way Driscoll handled himself was Biblical, since I was asked to give my opinion of him. Too many people idolize Driscoll and think he is practically divine. Driscoll is often wrong. He’s often right though. I try to take both the good and the bad from people. 🙂 Anyway, here’s the link to a small excerpt from the interview.
Okay, I’m closing this up. This is waaaaay too long. I’m pretty sure nobody will actually have finished this, so I apologize for the incredible length of this post.
I would love to hear opinions! If you would like me to write some more on this topic, please let me know and I will try my best. I hope that this has helped clear up some of Driscoll’s positions. I pray that everyone can be encouraged by this dialog, even if you may disagree with me. I love when people can disagree without getting too offended. That being said I know the highly personal nature of this post may stir some strong emotions. I apologize if I have offended anyone, and if I have please let me know. My goal is to show Christ like love to everyone, regardless of lifestyle, beliefs, or values.
In His grace,