Culture,  Theology/Bible

Mark Driscoll and the Fizzled Protest

Mark Driscoll in prayerPerhaps you’ve heard about the storm of controversy surrounding Pastor Mark Driscoll and some of the things he wrote on his blog about pastors’ wives. Driscoll has been roundly criticized by non-Christians and Christians alike for what he said, and he has since apologized for his tone, though not for the substance of his theological views.

There’s an article in today’s Seattle Times covering the controversy and the protest that had been scheduled to take place yesterday outside his church. Thankfully, the alliance of Christians, non-Christians, and anti-Christians who had planned to protest decided not to protest after Driscoll’s apology.

There are a few things about this whole situation that grieve me. First, Mark Driscoll’s remarks have been used as an occasion to blaspheme God’s truth. Many feminists who begrudge the Fatherhood of God and biblical headship use Driscoll as prima facie evidence that all patriarchy is evil and that Christianity is a farce. As a consequence, there will be some who will be misled to disbelieve in the glory of a Heavenly Father who loves them. Furthermore, they will continue to be deceived about what it means that God has created humans male and female.

Second, it is very sad to me that some Christians would be willing to team up with non-Christians and anti-Christians in order to protest another Christian (atheists and pagans were among those who showed up for the canceled protest). That a Christian could even conceive the possibility of such an action is a tragedy. I believe the discord will become an occasion for unbelievers to feel vindicated in their rejection of King Jesus. Some of them will see it as evidence that Christianity doesn’t work. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Third, I am saddened that some people will use this situation to marginalize Christian Christian voices in the public square. On Saturday, the Seattle Times informed its readers that Mark Driscoll would no longer be one of its religion columnists. The Times said that this decision was not related to the recent controversy, but I wonder if Driscoll’s complementarian views were not at least part of the reason that the Times cut him loose.

Anyone who cares about God and His truth finds much to be saddened about in this whole scenario. We should be praying for Pastor Driscoll, his church, and all the unbelievers who are beginning to feel a little bit better today about their decision to reject Christianity.

(HT: Mark Bjornholm)


  • Mark

    brings up an something interesting …

    Seems to me that Jesus, Paul, John the Baptist, etc., didn’t mince any words towards the unbelieving, and actually seemed to use rather harsh toned rhetoric in some instances… yet MD gets lambasted?

    Is this merely influence of “i’m okay, you’re okay”, and folks who just won’t listen to the untarnished truth, or something else?

    Just asking. I think there can be a balance somewhere.

    Pastors shouldn’t get muzzled b/c of public opinion, and I hope MD doesn’t feel compelled to do so.

  • Brian Trapp

    This whole thing was a shell game from beginning to end. Driscoll’s church is having a huge impact on the most secular city in America, and I’m certain that the various enemies of evangelicalism there were just waiting for a chance to hang Driscoll out to dry. I think most people who read his comments in context would have no problem with what he said.

  • dennyrburk

    Brian, I agree with you that the “enemies” have been waiting for the moment to “hang Driscoll out to dry.” That, they have done.

  • Tyler

    I’m curious what you guys think about the decision of some conservative Christians to protest Pastor Warren at Saddleback because of his decision to invite Barack Obama to the stage of the AIDS conference. Seems like a little consistency is in order here.

    I’m pretty convinced that most of the people protesting Pastor Driscoll are either committed egalitarians or, as you said, committed anti-Christians. You’ve gotta admit, though, that Driscoll should take at least some responsibility for his remarks. What he said was beyond the pale, and while I don’t support protesting a church (nor do I find it very practical), I think as Scot McKnight and others suggested, Christians of all flavors in Seattle would do well to have conversation about this and lots of other issues to find common ground. That’s the beginning, I think, of Christ-commanded love and unity…not just sweeping stuff under the rug and leaving it to the secular media to discipline a brother who in this case, (in my non-egalitarian opinion) deserved a strong public rebuke.


    I applaud what Mark had to say. I find that it was spot on, and the sad thing is that he said what most people are afraid to say. Mark was speaking from the interactions that he has had with other pastors and the issues they are dealing with in their lives. Keep speaking the truth in love Mark.

  • Paul

    I don’t really see the problem with anything that Driscoll said. And this coming from one of the most liberal people to read this blog. He’s right on every last one of his points. He might have stated things in a bit of a blunt manner, but that doesn’t for a second mean that he’s wrong.

    I hope that his congregation and other Christians throughout the country continue to support him in his endeavors.

  • Jada Bown Swanson

    I actually countered much of what Mark Driscoll had to say, just pushing back. I never sent to him what I wrote, but I think he lives in a non-typical church world. Much of what he stated is ‘good advice’ but also not a reality for many pastors i.e. having a male assistant (most churches can’t pay a male enough as an assistant to support a family. Heck most churches can’t or don’t or won’t pay a pastor enough to support his family).

    RE: his comments about pastors’ wives…..don’t get me started. I am not one of the ‘wives who has let herself go’ infact, I think I have gotten better wtih age. But working three part-time jobs to make ends meet, taking care of two kids and trying to be the best wife, mom, and the other ‘hats’ and ‘roles’ I wear does drain a person. See, as a pastor, Mr. Driscoll has a job description, as a pastor’s wife, I have job descriptions for the jobs I work, but not for the job I didn’t know I was hired for, kwim? Lots of expectations for us, either placed on us by ourselves or by others.

    So while there were good points to this blog entry, I (as well as my husband) can’t agree with everything as most churches can’t or don’t or won’t support their pastors in allowing them to working from home, taking someone with them on trips (wife or other person. , etc.

    I will not share my response, but I do have it, somewhere from several weeks back.

    I don’t think he should be blasted b/c of his opinion and as stated some good ones. I just wish he would or could walk a mile in our (pastors’ wives) shoes before making such comments.

    He is a good man from my limited knowledge of him and having lived in the Seattle area, well, it is another world than the Bible belt I grew up in, but sometimes that is not so bad.

  • travis johnson


    The common ground is Christ. We all are suppoesed to be following Him. Fellow Christians do not have to like the adjectives Mark uses or his non-essential doctrinal positions. They can take take those issues up with him personally. They can also take it up among other Christians (see Mat 18).

    But, Scripture prohibits PAF from public divisiveness and the trying of MD in the public, secular arena like they did. That was beyond appropriate. It was sinful, arrogant, and detrimental to the mission of Christ.

    Now, my personal opinion. I think Mark is accurate in an era where theology has given way to pragmatism and speaking truth in love is lost to political correctness.

    PAF functioned like spoiled children who didn’t get their way, pouting, kicking and screaming.

  • Tyler


    I agree with you that public divisiveness is against the spirit of Matthew 18, and that is why I said I didn’t support the protest. (BTW, what is PAF? You’ve lost me on that one.)

    However, no one has yet answered my initial question as to whether or not it is appropriate for politically conservative Christians to criticize Rick Warren publicly for inviting Obama to speak at his church. I think that if you are going to pontificate against the Seattle protesters, you need then to be consistent. What I think we have here is a case of speaking self-righteously against those who we disagree with politically.

    MD, by the way, has done little to further the spirit of Matthew 18 in regards to his comments on the Emerging Church, women, evangelicals, evangelical men (of which I am one…proudly, thank you). So this outcry in his defense is a bit puzzling to me.

    The church as we know it, and the church in Seattle, I believe, can grow stronger from this little internal skirmish. Let’s just remember, shall we, who the real enemy is.

  • travis johnson


    That’s a good question. I would say that conservative Chrstians can criticize Warren. It is permissible for Christians of every flavor to challenge one another in areas of interpretation/non-essential disagreement. But, that criticism should not elevate itself to public protest, lawsuits, etc… We are to be iron sharpening iron, not a hammer pulverizing a pebble.

    PAF is Paul Chapman and People Against Fundamentalism, the organizers of the protest.

  • Paul C.

    As the organizer of the protest, let me make a few clarifications.

    1) The Seattle Times is replacing Rev. Driscoll with an *evangelical* columnist.

    2)Mark’s inflammatory & derogatory remarks about women were the focus of the planned protest, not his theology. Mark has used feminine language as pejoratives. I think any reasonable & civil person could agree that people, particularly public figures, and specifically pastors can and should be civil and not demean others with the language and tone that they use.

    3) God’s truth is wider than ‘the church’, meaning that “God’s Truth” does not equal “what the church say & does”. If there is injustice being done by the church, why can’t Christians work with non-Christians on rectifying that injustice? To take an extreme example, look at the Catholic Priest pedophile issue, or the abuse of natives in Canadian religious schools decades ago. Because these injustices were done by Church Folk, does that mean that non-Christians should just butt out?

  • Paul C.

    One additional thing: non-Christians have been looking at Reverend Driscoll for a long time and wondering “With hateful language like that, why the heck do I want to be part of Christianity?”

    I pray that through controlling his language & tone that Rev. Driscoll will no longer be a stumbling block for Seattle.

  • dennyrburk

    Paul (in #11),

    Thank you for your comments. I am wondering, however, what your definition of an “evangelical” is.

    You wrote: “The Seattle Times is replacing Rev. Driscoll with an *evangelical* columnist.” Are you meaning to imply that Driscoll is not an evangelical? I surely hope not. You might argue that he has a tongue that needs to be sanctified, but you would be hard-pressed to show evidence that he is not an evangelical in his theology and teaching.

    You also wrote: “If there is injustice being done by the church, why can’t Christians work with non-Christians on rectifying that injustice?” An evangelical would insist that the Bible is the authority in telling us how to confront a brother when he needs to be confronted about his sin.

    Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5 have some very specific directives on the matter. Moreover, 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 teaches that it is better to be wronged than to bring church-disunity into the public view. These are just a few of the biblical texts that speak to the issue of confronting a brother.

    PAF runs roughshod over the Bible when they decide to team-up with non-Christians and anti-Christians to protest a Christian brother. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

    Thanks for taking time to write.

    Denny Burk

  • Mark

    In the words of the organizer of the protest:

    We want to get coordinated and plan something theatrical rather than only a mere Picket Protest.

    We’re looking for a splashy media effort (print, television, blogs, etc.) so that Mark the Misogynist and his Fundamentalism are visibly exposed for the destructive force that they are. A YouTube video would also be awesome.

    Theatrics?!? Come on.

    Alot more than looking for peace, PAF was looking to stir ALOT of (self – centered) attention, division, and controversy with no small beam of spotlight.

    Who will be their next victim?

  • travis johnson


    Mark and Denny are right on. Further, it is incredibly convenient for you to call for civility and not to demean others when in the very same sentence you say that anyone who does not agree with you is unreasonable and uncivil.

    The use of the word “mysoginist” is hypocritical given your complaint. And, your flagrant avoidance of Scripture which governs these types of conflicts tells me all I need to know about your cause.

    Paul, your treatment of the Scriptures is abusive and detrimental to the mission of Christ.

  • Luke Britt

    Sounds a lot like a liberal/mainline group who cares more about individual American rights than protection and accountability inside the catholic church.

  • Tyler

    Can I ask, just for sake of discussion, what makes a forum like this less public than a sidewalk protest? Why is it that we can throw flames at each other here, but if we hold up a placard, we are violating scripture?

    And btw, the protest against Warren was not “iron sharpening iron.” It was a partisan hissy fit splashed across the LA Times, which was picked up by several major news outlets around the country.

    As for MD, I think he still has a lot to answer for. It bothers me that people who support him are so eager to call him evangelical, Reformed, what of us, whatever, because of his theological credentials and because he has a heart for evangelism. I don’t dispute or make light of those things, but Jesus seems more interested in a person’s fruit (i.e. their behavior, especially in public) so that when skeptics and such see their good works, they give praise to God. Unfortunately, there is very little to praise in some of MD’s more outrageous statements, which he has made in Rush Limbaugh-like fashion over and over and over again. This does not reflect well on his theology or evangelicalism as a whole, especially when his supporters try so darn hard to make him “one of us,” thereby sanctioning his comments as approved by Jesus Himself.

  • travis johnson


    It is not throwing flames to say on Denny Burk’s blog that Paul/PAF violated Scripure. Further, the LA Times is going to cover religious news.

    For instance, when a dying mainline denomination ordains homosexual as Bishops, that’s news. It is also news when evangelicals condemn that action as unbiblical. That’s news.

    However, it is totally inappropriate for a professing Christian to violate Scripture because a personal pet preference has been violated by a fellow believer.

    Before you invoke Limbaugh, preferences, Obama, and the other personalities to establish a scenario where Paul’s actions are permissible, show me in Scripture where those activities are permissible.

  • Paul


    re: Obama’s speaking at Rick Warren’s church:

    Personally speaking, I think that anyone that stands against Obama speaking at Saddleback is a tool, flat out.

    Let’s face it, Obama’s a Christian, and no matter how much anyone wants to argue to the contrary, we are a large bunch with differing views on a variety of subject matter. Many liberal Christians are pro-choice not because they’re pro-choice and want to kill babies, and not even because they support the woman’s right to choose, but rather, they see that the alternative at this point in American culture could be even more damaging.

    If Obama, as a Christian, has views that Warren thinks should be heard, then as the pastor of that church, he has the right to ensure that they are heard. Frankly, I am quite tired of everyone that tries to paint the picture to be “pro-life, anti-gay marriage Republican good, everyone else bad!” There’s too much else out there to also be concerned with, and anyone who bases their political stance based on those two issues alone ought to have their voting (and speaking) priveleges revoked. I know it’s harsh, but it’s also the truth.

  • Tyler


    I’m still unclear as to why evangelicals declaring a certain action to be “unbiblical” is all that different from calling out what Paul and others would consider to be unbiblical rhetoric and attitudes toward women. If it is alright for conservative Christians to “condemn” liberal Christians for taking what they see as unbiblical positions, why is it somehow so unbiblical when liberal Christians protest a conservative pastor whose tongue/pen is out of control in violation of several Scriptures (James 3 comes to mind)?

    Mark’s comments are more than violations of personal preferences. They are offensive to me, one of those “evan-jellyfish” men who is proud of his heritage. They are offensive, hurtful, and potentially harmful to women who have struggled with abuse, eating disorders, or a whole array of self-image issues.

    So to get back to my central point here in this conversation…the central issue here is theological, not just an issue of tone. Being arrogant and thoughtless is a sign not just of bad judgment, but of bad theology. Again, consult the book of James.

  • Steve Hayes


    Do you even know anything about Driscoll? You say he is “proud of his heritage”, but he has no evangelical heritage. Driscoll became a Christian as an adult, and didn’t grow up with any kind of Christian influence. By the way, he grew up in Seatle, and certainly had no “evangelical heritage.”

    Could it be that Driscoll is not the typical church guy, and is still in the process of learning how to communicate the delicate balance between grace and truth?

    What strikes me about all of this is the idealistic and unrealistic view that just because you’re a pastor you can’t make a few mistakes here and there. Perhaps the way Driscoll stated things was a bit offensive to some, and therefore less than gracious. On the other hand, the way those who protested – some of whom were pastors – handled things was definitely less than gracious.

    I have no problem calling someone out on an issue, but where’s the grace in all of this? The only person I see demonstrating grace is Driscoll in his humble response. He shows a teachable spirit, and that means he’s learning. That’s all anyone can hope for of a pastor who makes mistakes.

  • Tyler


    Thanks for that. I agree with you completely regarding showing grace to those who make mistakes. I am aware of Driscoll’s background. I was referring to my own evangelical heritage, which I am proud of. I have felt for sometime that Driscoll often speaks about something he doesn’t completely understand when he writes off evangelical men as a bunch of nice wimps. Driscoll is not the only one who uses that language, but his tone is a bit more confrontational than others. Maybe that’s because he is learning, or maybe it’s because he is convinced that a softer, catch-flies-with-honey tone is not being a real man. Maybe it’s too (as one commenter said earlier) politically correct for his liking. It’s sometimes hard to tell what his reasoning is.

    I agree with you that his response was humble, and I appreciated it. But in all honesty, I am more concerned with the attitudes of his defenders, some of whom I know personally, than I am with his own response. Mainly because I don’t live in Seattle and don’t know his situation other than what I read on the internet. But Driscoll has a lot of followers out there in the conservative reformed camp who tend to wear their hang-em-high mean spirits as a badge of true conviction. That bothers me greatly as a person who loves the church. And so that’s why I entered this conversation to begin with. Just to offer an alternative perspective. Thanks for listening.

  • Steve Hayes


    Yep, I know what you mean about some of these folks who think it’s cool to beat someone up because they have a different point of view. I’ve also seen that kind of rhetoric from Driscoll. But I think Driscoll is a bit different than the guys you and I know who are a product of the “system” of conservative Christianity, and proud of it.

    Driscoll began gaining prominence as an early voice in the Emerging Movement. In other words, he began his journey in ministry as a somewhat rebellious voice to the mainstream status quo of Christianity. He has since had a falling out with the Emerging leadership, but it seems mostly due to his concerns over the theology being embraced by EM, and not due to his views on the methodology of EM.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that Driscoll is not a product of the system. He’s an independant thinker, and his natural personality seems a bit combative. He needs to grow in this area, but I don’t think it’s the same as some of the senseless evangelical pride that we’ve witnessed in many conservative circles. I think he was probably a very opinionated guy before he became a Christian, and he is still in the process of being transformed in this area.

    I can remember a time when I was young and fiery, and I made the mistake of writing some of my thoughts in a church newsletter. It wasn’t appropriate, and it wasn’t well recieved. I had no idea. When it was brought to my attention, I was genuinely saddened, and it changed me.

    I can only hope that Driscoll will experience the same kind of change in the way he communicates his thoughts. I have no problem with him speaking his mind, but I pray that he’ll learn to do so in a way that is direct yet gracious. I think God’s teaching him how to do that through situations like this.

    I appreciate your thoughts. Grace to you.

  • Mark

    Great exchange Steve and Tyler.

    There is so much to be learned from what MD is going through with all of this. So much for the better. For Christ.

    I agree very much that MD is sound theolgically. But maybe the strong personality has appealed to me more, since I, too, have a history of being very opinionated and loud mouthed (and very self-serving), and only since meeting Christ have I really learned what grief it causes, and obviously how unloving and how far from Christ it can be.

    Thank you Father for your grace.

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