Shock-jock pastor meets the full (but not so manly) might of the British Empire

Mark Driscoll is mad. (Yes, again.)

This time, it’s about his recent interview with UK radio host and “timid Brit” Justin Brierley. A few extracts were released ahead of a profile piece in Christianity magazine. They include one where Driscoll challenges Brierley on everything from the number of manly men in his church (which is pastored by his wife) to whether Brierley believes in penal substitution. And here I thought the interviewer generally asked the questions.

Other highlights include Driscoll saying that British churches are run by “a bunch of cowards who aren’t telling truth,” and claiming the entire country doesn’t “have one young guy that anybody’s listening to who can preach the Bible.”

In other words, the problem with the British church is that it needs more strident celebrity pastors?

Then there was the bit where Driscoll — famous calling his theological opponents a bunch of “chicks and chickified dudes with limp wrists” — described the UK church scene as “guys in dresses preaching to grandmas.”

When it came out that the presenter’s wife is a pastor, Driscoll launched into a “whose church is bigger?” competition, which he concluded with this statement:

You look at your results, look at my results, and look at the variable that’s most obvious [i.e. male leadership].”

Afterward on his blog, Driscoll characterized the experience as “the most disrespectful, adversarial, and subjective” interview he’s had since releasing his latest book, Real Marriage, which he co-authored with his wife Grace.

He said he felt set up — namely, that the interview “had nearly nothing to do with the book or its subject matter” as expected. He complained of being “selectively edited and presented in a way that is not entirely accurate.”

So Brierley posted the entire interview online.

And yeah… he asks some tough questions, much as he did when he interviewed Rob Bell about his controversial book Love Wins. That’s what journalists do.

At least 20 minutes of the interview touched on Driscoll’s book directly or indirectly. Before starting, Brierley asked if it was OK to venture into other subjects as well. And his pointed questions were balanced by his oft-repeated admiration for Driscoll’s willingness to tackle the difficult issues head on.  

Another complaint was that Brierley ignored Driscoll’s wife, who was on the phone with him and was meant to be part of the interview. This one seems like a fair complaint. Grace Driscoll was asked just one question during the entire interview. Brierley quickly apologized for this at the end. More to the point, instead of complaining about it after the fact, why didn’t Mark Driscoll — as his wife’s defender, protector, etc. — speak up for her during the interview? Why did he never say, “Hey, my wife has some great insights to share about the book; let’s make sure we cover that, too”?

While we’re (kind of) on the subject, if you believe it’s wrong for a woman to “teach or have authority” over men, why would you co-write a book about marriage with your wife? What if a man reads your book — namely, the sections written by your wife — and learns something from it? What if he actually “submits” to some of her advice? Precisely how is that not “teaching or having authority” over men?

What’s unfortunate is that Driscoll had a number of reasonable things to say during the interview, most of which were overshadowed by his reaction to it. When asked about the provocatively titled chapter “Can We _____?” in Real Marriage, Driscoll gave a perfectly sensible rationale for his advice to young couples.

But why did he feel the need to chide the presenter as “scandalous” and “immature” for asking about this chapter in the first place? You mean to tell me it’s OK to write a chapter on all the things a married couple should and shouldn’t do during their more intimate moments, give it a provocative title designed to grab people’s attention, and then get irritated when a reporter wants to ask you about it?

There were plenty of other illuminating moments during the interview, both bad and good. Like when Driscoll demonstrated that he doesn’t fully understand the difference between single and double predestination. On the plus side, he offered that predestination and gender roles are second-tier issues, not litmus tests of orthodoxy. (Whew.)

But Driscoll’s dressing-down of the presenter near the end was just, well, sad. You can read a partial transcript over at Cognitive Discopants (= best blog name ever).

Driscoll asks Brierley how many young men have come to Christ at the church his wife pastors. Driscoll’s point — implied here, but stated clearly a moment later — is that he’s won more converts; therefore he’s right about women in ministry. When Brierley points out that a few young men have, in fact, come to Christ since his wife took the reins of their small church, Driscoll responds:

This is where the excuses come, not the verses. This is where the excuses come, not the verses.

Setting aside the fact that throwing around Bible verses like weapons is a poor way to win an argument, Driscoll’s logic is, in essence: “I’m popular. I’ve got lots of people coming to my church. Which proves I’m right and you’re wrong.”

It’s an odd argument to make, especially for someone who has openly (and, in my opinion, rightly) criticized the prosperity gospel of Joel Osteen. If numbers are a sign of God’s personal endorsement, then Osteen is even more right than Mark is.

Next, Driscoll asks what kind of men are to be found in Brierley’s church. “Strong men?” Then he asks whether Brierley’s wife does any “sexual counseling” with men. To which the answer is, not surprisingly, no. Like any sensible church, they have male leaders available to counsel other men about their sexual problems.

Then Driscoll changes subjects entirely, asking Brierley if he believes in the “conscious, literal, eternal torment of hell.” And so the litmus test comes out.

Brierley rightly asks what this has to do with the subject at hand, women in ministry. To which Driscoll replies:

It depends on your view of God. Is God like a mom who just embraces everyone, or is he like a father who also protects and defends and disciplines?

I’m not sure who Driscoll’s trying harder to insult: egalitarians (who worship an effeminate teddy bear, apparently) or every mom on the planet (all of whom are apparently incapable of protecting, defending, and disciplining their children).

Over on his blog, Driscoll pleads with British churches not to compromise on “essential doctrinal issues,” which for him includes “the reality of a literal conscious eternal torment in hell.” Translation: if you don’t believe in eternal conscious torment, you’re not a Christian.

OK, but one of Driscoll’s theological heroes, John Stott (“whom I love,” Driscoll said during the interview) didn’t believe in eternal conscious torment. He was an annihilationist. Worse, he was British!

As the interview-in-reverse draws to a close, Driscoll tries one last time to prove that Brierley isn’t a real Christian — because it’s all about who’s in and who’s out — this time by asking whether he believes in the penal substitutionary theory of atonement.

From the perspective of historic Christian orthodoxy, Brierley’s answer is quite sensible: substitutionary atonement is one of the ways (but not the only way) we understand what happened on the cross. I should say “try to understand,” because precisely how Christ defeated sin and death is wrapped up in mystery beyond our ability to fathom.

But for Driscoll, that’s not good enough. Penal substitution is the “central, governing” idea of the cross. To which I respond with the same question I’ve asked of Calvinism in general. If that’s so, then why isn’t penal substitution clearly stated in the universal creeds of the church, much less Paul’s summation of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 (which, as Scot McKnight has demonstrated, provided the framework for the earliest creeds)?

Finally, a word of advice. (Not that you’re reading, Mark. But I’ll pretend anyway.) Every time you get torn apart for saying something careless, you complain that you were selectively quoted and taken out of context.

You’re a smart guy. You’re culturally savvy. The answer is staring you in the face.

If you’re tired of people throwing all the careless things you’ve said back at you, stop saying them.

It’s time to man up, Mark.


Update: Christianity magazine (the publication behind the Mark Driscoll interview) tweeted a link to my post earlier today. So I’ve posted a follow-up on why I think it’s important to speak up about Driscoll.

16 thoughts on “Shock-jock pastor meets the full (but not so manly) might of the British Empire

  1. Ben, nice improvement on the picture! Great analysis. There were lots of things I wanted to discuss in more detail, but my blog post got so long with just the interview transcript. Thanks for picking up the slack!


    1. Thanks! I couldn’t help myself. I thought you had some good observations in your post as well. Perusing your blog a bit further, I’m realizing there’s much more to it than an awesome name. Really appreciate what you have to say and how you say it.


  2. Ben: “I’m not sure who Driscoll’s trying harder to insult: egalitarians (who worship an effeminate teddy bear, apparently) or every mom on the planet (all of whom are incapable of protecting, defending, and disciplining their children, apparently).”

    Good post, altogether. But the above is my favorite.
    As a mom, I get so tired of men pushing this doctrine and trying to crunch women down into a box of what they think/want biblical womanhood to be, then insult women for what that box entails.
    Driscoll’s attitudes on women and womanhood are insulting and inaccurate.
    God help anyone who hurts any mother’s child in her presence. They will see, first hand, how well a mother can protect and defend.


  3. “Smiling is for women” . . . and a smugly disinterested sneer is the proper facial expression for men? No matter your theological positions on these issues, Driscoll’s antagonistic, abrasive manner is unacceptable.


  4. That John Stott died at 90 having never married might also have been considered a count against him by the metric of Markulinity.

    What’s most puzzling as a former member who heard his 2005 atonement series indebted to Stott’s work, Driscoll used to say there was no one way to understand the fullness of the atonement and that all the theories of atonement had something valuable to contribute. So “now” PSA must be the primary lens through which to understand the atonement? An Eastern Orthodox friend of mine told me last year that even in Eastern Orthodoxy penal substitutionary atonement is a given, but it’s not given the same emphasis it has received in Western Christian thought. I may be a Calvinist but emphasizing PSA at the expense of christus exemplar is crazy and it’s even crazier knowing that Mark preached on christus exemplar years ago. It was one of his better sermons. When Mark lays aside his fear of liberal/feminine theology cooties he can do some good preaching.

    If Driscoll conflates a difference in emphasis for an absence then someone could ask him why, in fifteen years, he’s never done much with sermons on biblical poems that didn’t involve sex. 11 weeks on Song of Songs, one or two sermons on the Magnificat. No sermons on Psalm 139.


  5. Mark is screaming because the whole thing is “to stoke the fires of controversy, thereby increasing readership, which generates advertising revenue…(blah blah blah)”.

    Wait. Why does this formula look so familiar? (thinking……) (controversy = increased traffic = revenue) (Oh yeah!) It’s because it looks exactly like every ____ thing Mark has ever done.

    Whew. I’m glad Mark has a grip on exactly what’s happening here.


  6. A brilliant blog entry, Ben, from the hilarious opening image to the thorough scrutiny you give to Driscoll’s incoherent over-reactions.

    In particular, note the desperate stupidity of Driscoll’s argument, while he grilled Justin Brierley:

    1. Women should not be in charge.
    2. To prove this, I will ask Justin a series of questions about his church (asks the questions, none of them show that his wife is doing a bad job)
    3. Yea, but, you’ve got a woman in charge!

    Driscoll has done some good work, but he’s also a bully. As a result, I no longer trust him and cannot listen to his sermons without an acutely skeptical ear. Plenty of other theologians out there who don’t carry that kind of baggage.


  7. All I can say is that my intuition tells me not to trust this man. There is a certain satanic influence about him, no matter how good he can preach or how popular he is.


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