Reflecting on Driscoll's NY Times piece, Who Would Jesus Smack Down?

I read through the NY Times article “Who Would Jesus Smack Down?” about Mark Driscoll.  For those who don’t know, Mark is the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA, he’s authored several books, speaks nationally, blogs, among other things.  For those who do know, I encourage you to read it anyway.  ;-)

There’s a lot about Driscoll that I agree with.  There’s even a lot I like.  I appreciate his passion, the desire to invest in others, and his love for the Scriptures.  Undoubtedly, he has done some good things for the Kingdom.  But in heaven, we will both sit embarrassed of our theology and this will be true of all of us.  But I have some glitches too.  One is that he’s overly critical of the emergent church conversation. Not to imply that he needs to become a poster child for it, nor am I asserting the only way to be a faithful Christ-follower today is to be a part of emergent, but I wish he had continued with the conversation instead of abandoning and criticizing it.  I also wish he was more gracious with who/what he disagreed with.  My hope is that he does not age into the common perception of a Pat Robertson.  He’s not that now, because he’s young and accepted as “cool”.

Perhaps my greatest issue with Mark is how he speaks about women.  I find it embarrassing.  As one who grew up with the teaching and example of a strong complementarian model, I find him to be “off the mark”.  Perhaps you may know more about this subject than I, are there varying degrees to this?   To me, his views sound like a delicate balance between chauvinism and slavery.  His is not the complementation position.  My favorite example is his message from July 11, 2005 on Genesis 39, Joseph and Potiphar’s wife (available on itunes podcasts and probably through the Mars Hill website).

Here’s another thing that always annoys me.  While I can nod my head in agreement that Jesus wasn’t only always snuggling with children and cuddling with lambs, he wasn’t Braveheart 24-7 either.  (By the way, Mel was balanced, fluent in French and gifted in brutally dismembering people).  I submit that Jesus is even more well-rounded.  But not only is Jesus perceived differently to many people but he was different to different people.  He’s a warrior and a poet.  He fought the Pharisees and cried with the mourners.  He blessed the meek but passionately overturned the corrupt money-changers.  We know all this, right? Agreed, Jesus wasn’t the “limp-wristed, wussy” that some have allegedly created but stressing the tattooed, demon bounty-hunting, “Roadhouse”  Jesus does not seem to be an accurate picture either. He’s not Fabio and not Stone Cold Steve Austin.

We are all different relative to our context.  We behave as fools in front of infants, saints in our churches, cheering fools at our ball games, and hope to be courageous in the face of danger.  Do not dismiss this as hypocrisy, but this is appropriate for humans for we are not one dimensional.  Can I assume that Driscoll makes an attempt to not use profanity in front of his children?

Concerning the article, it’s well written and am grateful it’s in the Times.  If this were my first time hearing of Driscoll, I’d be interested in learning more about him.  Some things are a little over-stated though.  It creates (unintentionally, I presume) this paradigm between seeker sensitive churches and churches like Mars Hill.  Sentences like these “They are not ‘the next big thing’ but a protest movement, defying an evangelical mainstream that, they believe, has gone soft on sin and has watered down the Gospel into a glorified self-help program.” imply that it’s one or the other.  Was this written by a modernist?  Is this meant to say if you are not part of Driscoll’s protest movement, you are soft on sin?  Again, probably not intentional but that’s what I am reading.

I encourage you to read the piece; I found this paragraph to be interesting is this paragraph.  Try to read through, the last line is brilliant:

“Mars Hill — with its conservative social teachings embedded in guitar solos and drum riffs, its megachurch presence in the heart of bohemian skepticism — thrives on paradox. Critics on the left and right alike predict that this delicate balance of opposites cannot last. Some are skeptical of a church so bent on staying perpetually “hip”: members have only recently begun to marry and have children, but surely those children will grow up, grow too cool for their cool church and rebel. Others say that Driscoll’s ego and taste for controversy will be Mars Hill’s Achilles’ heel. Lately he has made a concerted effort to tone down his language, and he insists that he has delegated much authority, but the heart of his message has not changed. Driscoll is still the one who gazes down upon Mars Hill’s seven congregations most Sundays, his sermons broadcast from the main campus to jumbo-size projection screens around the city. At one suburban campus that I visited, a huge yellow cross dominated center stage — until the projection screen unfurled and Driscoll’s face blocked the cross from view. Driscoll’s New Calvinism underscores a curious fact: the doctrine of total human depravity has always had a funny way of emboldening, rather than humbling, its adherents.”

While, I know I need to be careful of that too, the line made me laugh.


  1. i love your post and think you have been very balanced.

    i know your heart and know you mean no harm, but i need to point out one thing i find offensive: ‘Agreed, Jesus wasn’t the “limp-wristed, wussy” that some have allegedly created. . .’

    This is a derogatory picture of us gay folk and being limp wristed is not wrong. It only perpetuates lies and hurts. That’s all! i am not mad but i just wanted to inform you for the future.

    You are awesome and keep up the great writing!

    BTW, whenever i come to your blog i have that Squeeze song “Black Coffee In Bed” in my head! AWESOME SONG!

    Warm Regards,


  2. Hey EP, thanks for commenting and for your kind words.

    In quoting Driscoll’s infamous line, I can see how that reads. Indeed I meant no offense and I apologize for agreeing with that “straw man” version. If it’s alright, I won’t edit it so we can keep this conversation in context. I’m fairly comfortable with my mistakes pointed out.

    I am trying to communicate that “macho Jesus” and “whatever the “opposite of macho Jesus is” (and by stating the opposite is not an implication of being gay) is not an accurate picture of Jesus because you cannot confine it. That’s why at the end of it I reject Fabio and Stone Cold. For me, neither are accurate pictures.

    This opens up another set of questions for me regarding masculinity, the GLBT community and Jesus. Glad you’re part of the conversation.

Speak Your Mind