I will confess up front that I am a member of Grace Community Church and I work at Grace to You radio ministries. I would imagine that admission discredits any remarks I may make against Mark Driscoll in the minds of his supporters as the whining criticisms of another sycophantic MacArthurite. I guess that is to be expected; but my reaction is one of a Christian man who loves holiness and has a deep passion for personal holiness in the lives of God’s people, and God’s pastors are to set the example of holiness for others to emulate.
So last week, when I read with stunned dismay the comments left at the Shepherd’s Fellowship blog in reaction to John MacArthur’s articles on the Song of Solomon and his expressed alarm at the recent practice of preachers, most notably Mark Driscoll, to teach sexually explicit messages taken from the book, my passion for holiness was stirred and I had to speak my mind. I apologize in advance if my thoughts ramble. I have been mulling them over in my mind for a number of days, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I will sound coherent. And they are certainly my own and I bear the responsibility for them.
The current trend in American “Christendom” is preachers basically scandalizing their congregations by talking openly about sexual matters from the pulpit. These lurid sermons are suppose to engage the culture by telling worldly people Christians aren’t hung up about sex and God is cool about sex, too. The main culprit is Mark Driscoll, who presented a recent sermon series from the Song of Solomon as ancient sex-tips to spice up the bed room like those articles I see advertised on the cover of Glamour and Redbook magazines. But other pastors also believe they too need to be graphic in their discussions of sex, including the descriptions of anatomy and performed acts.
John is rightly concerned, because in addition to mangling the divine picture God paints in the Song of Solomon of pure, marital love between a husband and a wife by reading into it the most prurient images imaginable, there are Christians who genuinely defend such sex talk from the pulpit and dismiss these type of sermons out of hand as if nothing troubling has taken place. The real trouble maker, according to these people, are folks like John who is an old fuddy-dud man who is living in a past generation that no longer has a relevant thing to offer our world.
Laying aside the exegesis of the Song of Solomon, my rant is aimed at these defenders. Predictably, the vast majority of John’s critics and Driscoll’s enablers are college students or college graduates. They are young men who identify with being the restless and reformed “new” Calvinists. They think because Mark Driscoll also identifies with “new” Calvinism, claims to be orthodox, and has a popular ministry in Seattle, he is to be heard.
A few bloggers even annoyingly attempt to offer thought analysis of the whole Driscoll affair by framing the controversy he generates and the critics, like John who takes the time to respond, as disagreeing over secondary matters as to what methods one should use to engage the culture. Even more galling is how the bloggers will offer their pastoral advice as if they are speaking from a wisdom that transcends everyone who has provided an opinion on the matter, but in reality, their attitude shouts a hubris of symphonic levels. They challenge John MacArthur, a man who has been in ministry longer than any of them have been alive and treat him as if he were a Fundamentalist finger wagger decrying contemporary Christian rock music.
Speaking from personal experience, twenty years ago I was once a young Calvinist, but I sought to keep myself away from being influenced by a sex drenched culture (even in the Bible-belt state of Arkansas) and I would had been appalled to hear this kind of sexual stuff that is passed off as biblical preaching. In fact, I can remember vividly a presentation on pornography I heard at my Church that was similar in content as the messages Driscoll gave on the Song of Solomon. There was a local moral crusader who attended our Church. He believed it was his calling in life to make a nuisance of himself by going to every liquor store, quick mart, and mom-and-pop video rental place and make sure they weren’t selling dirty magazines or X-rated videos.
Some how he managed to talk our pastor into letting him give a presentation on why pornography was detrimental to our society. For 25 minutes or so on this one Wednesday evening, I fidgeted uncomfortably as he graphically described sexual deviancy from the pulpit of my church. Being in mixed company with young children present as he describe porn was bad enough, but what made me sick was him dishonoring God’s people by subjecting them to sinful images just because he thought “we need to know what’s going on.”
With that introduction I have some questions and comments I would like to share with the friends of Driscoll who think this guy is a qualified preacher who is doing much to further the kingdom of God:
– Why is it even necessary for him to graphically address the topic of sex from the pulpit? Take for instance the message he gave at a Scottish church which is the catalyst for a lot of the terse comments left at the Shepherd’s Fellowship blog. Why was it necessary for him to name specific anatomical parts during his talk? Even if he used medical terminology, how exactly is describing reproductive organs a good thing for edification on a Sunday morning?
– Do any of Driscoll’s defenders even care if young children were present with their parents to hear his sexually charged talks? I would imagine not, seeing a good portion of them are probably not married. I happen to be a parent of young boys. My wife and I do all we can to protect them from our sexually perverse culture, but now, parents have to protect their children from a Church service, too? Will church services be subject to a rating system so I can know whether or not I should attend the particular service? I am amazed that parents who would otherwise be outraged if a radical teacher exposed their 10 year olds to sexual material in a public school class room want to give Driscoll a pass on his sex talks because he is supposedly a gifted communicator and has a big ministry in Seattle.
– I am personally troubled prominent men like John Piper and D.A. Carson are not as disturbed as I am with Driscoll’s antics. The first time I heard Piper preach he gave a blistering exhortation for pastors to conduct themselves with holiness in the pulpit. Has he forgotten this sermon? I take the idea of “holiness in the pulpit” as abstaining from the use of sexually suggestive material during a sermon that utilize illustrations of human reproductive functionality.
– I am equally tired of Driscoll defenders claiming his conduct in the pulpit is off limits from public criticism because he has allegedly repented from his crude speech and his supposedly being discipled by men like John Piper. First, I have yet to see any signs of genuine repentance on his part. I am sorry, but the so-called “Spring Cleaning” post where a few links are removed from the internet does not equate biblical repentance. I thought everyone here were Calvinistic in their soteriology. They ought to know what true repentance entails. A complete putting off of sexually charged speech and the putting on of righteous speech demonstrates true repentance. Driscoll has yet to show me he has repented.
Additionally, I don’t care who is mentoring him. He is a public figure whose influence sways thousands and he speaks his sex talk in a public forum. That makes him open for any and all criticism. If Todd Bentley, the grandma smashing evangelist in Florida, were being discipled by a fellow Pentecostal like Gordon Fee or Michael Brown, I don’t believe any of Driscoll’s defenders would insist Bentley was above public scrutiny and would demand we talk with him privately first before we pointed out his ministry was clownish.
– Then lastly, and I say this with sober-faced fear and trembling: I am fearful Driscoll is in danger of rushing headlong to a scandal. I do not wish at all a calamity like that to befall him. I pray it will never happen, because it would be more than just grievous, but could possibly have catastrophic consequences. But let us be frank: many of the major scandals in the past 20 years or so involving pastors falling from ministry revealed later an unhealthy preoccupation with denouncing sexual sin or secret sins in their sermons. I truly hope I am overreacting, but I don’t believe the Proverbs speak in vain on the urgency of guarding our hearts.
I am reminded of what the Scriptures say of Rehoboam in 2 Kings 12:8, But he rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him. The new king rejected the wise words of his elders and heeded the foolish naivety of his young and restless friends. As a result, the nation was divided and set in motion patterns of rebellion which only plunged the people of Israel into judgment. I do hope these young men who are enamoured with Mark Driscoll’s notoriety will come to hear the warnings of their elders.