This is the argument of my friend (you hear his voice in the introduction to the Heidelcast) Jason Estopinal. He appeals to Proverbs 10:19, 1 Thessalonians 4:11; Philippians 4:8, Proverbs 3:30, and Matthew 18 and concludes that Christians should not be fascinated by what one critic has called the “failure porn” of the Christianity Today podcast series, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. Jason asked directly for my response and here it is:His argument proves too much. By his reasoning we should have to remove a good bit of Scripture and much of church history. I have not only listened to the series (I have three episodes to go) but I have encouraged HB readers to listen to it as well. The series is a sort of very early draft of church history. It illuminates the nature of the so-called Young, Restless, and Reformed, New Calvinism, and Emerging Church movements as well as it illuminates the nature of what Carl Trueman has called “Big Eva.”
The podcast series is not failure porn nor is too harsh. If anything it is too soft on Driscoll. Jason wants the church as an institution to deal with Driscoll but his argument assumes something that it must prove: that Mars Hill was a church. I think not. On sociological terms we we should describe Mars Hill (and its satellites) as a congregation but not church. It lacked the marks of the true church (see Belgic Confession, art. 29). It was not disciplined. Kim Riddlebarger has argued that Driscoll did not even have elders to whom he was accountable. Did Driscoll preach the pure gospel? Sometimes, perhaps but not consistently. Were the sacraments purely administered? No. Even Driscoll’s current congregation (more on this below) lacks the marks as defined by the Reformed churches. Mars Hill tried to discipline him and he defied them. Which ecclesiastical body would discipline him now? It certainly would not be his current congregation which is controlled by Driscoll and family members. He is not accountable to anyone but he continues to pose a danger to many.
Further, Mark did not merely sin as a private person. He abused the sheep and he often did it publicly. He made himself a pastor, though he was by his own admission, unqualified and then proceeded to use his position as well as those around and under him. According to a group from his current congregation, he continues to do these very same things in Scottsdale, AZ. As our Lord Jesus said, “to whom much was given, much from him will be required” (Luke 12:48). It is not too much to say that he is a false teacher and to be marked out as such. In this respect the podcast series and the several critiques published here and elsewhere perform a valuable service: warning vulnerable sheep about dangerous figures in the church.
The Apostle Paul did not follow Jason’s advice. He not only confronted Peter in front of others he recorded the confrontation in Holy Scripture for all to read and for all time. It must have been a source of mortification for Peter to know, as he was writing and dictating 1 and 2 Peter that the the Spirit had inspired Paul to record yet another of his failures. As I understand the chronology, the Spirit used that episode and Peter stood up to the Judaizers at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15.
Scripture records errant figures by name, both laity and officers. Recently my pastor, Chris Gordon, has been preaching through Philippians, which was probably written for two purposes, one of which was to address a controversy between two of the founding women in the congregation, Euodia and Syntache (Phil 4:2). Paul records other names of false teachers and errant persons. He mocked the self-described Super Apostles in 2 Corinthians (and implicitly perhaps in 1 Corinthians).
Mark Driscoll is not only a public figure, which Jason concedes, but he is a pubic figure who has influenced thousands of people and perhaps more. Those people ought to know a few things: 1) Mark Driscoll is not a pastor and never was; 2) Mark Driscoll in no way represents the Reformed churches, our theology, our piety or our practice. If I have a regret about the CT podcast series it is that Mike Cosper repeatedly describes Driscoll as Reformed despite the fact that Driscoll was never actually Reformed in his doctrine and has never been recognized by any Reformed church as a Reformed minister or even a member of a Reformed congregation. Were Mark Driscoll to appear at a Reformed communion service, it is possible that he might not might not—he should not be—be admitted to the table since he is not a member of a church and he is a publicly scandalous person; 3) Driscoll is an abuser of the sheep.
As part of his argument against the the CT podcast series, Jason invokes Abraham Kuyper (1837–1920). This is strange because, were Kuyper alive today, he would be running the world’s largest Christian website, which would certainly be covering the Driscoll saga. He would probably have produced a podcast series himself. After all, Kuyper published not one but two newspapers, one ecclesiastical and the other political-cultural. There was little that Kuyper would not discuss in public and he certainly would be warning us about the likes of Mark Driscoll and his lot.
Jason might have a case had Driscoll repented of his abuse of the sheep in Seattle and gone off the live quietly as a truck driver or taken up some other honorable vocation but he has not. Like Tullian Tchvidjian, James MacDonald and others like them, he has moved on to the next grift.
Therefore we should be thankful to Mike Cosper and the folks at CT for exploring the significant of Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll and the whole YRR/New Calvinist movement. It has been salutary to turn the spotlight on Driscoll. Perhaps doing so has kept one of Christ’s lambs from wandering into his congregation in Scottsdale to be fleeced.
I agree that we should pray for Driscoll, that the Lord would convict him and produce in him fruit worthy of repentance but we can and may also warn the sheep about Driscoll and others like him and we may explore important and influential movements and phenomena not for mere voyeurism but so that we may learn from them.
©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.
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