Mark Driscoll’s Marriage Sermon: The Flip Side

I just finished listening to Mark Driscoll’s sermon on marriage for men, from 1 Peter. I did find it quite powerful and helpful: it described ways of failing to be a man that I hadn’t considered before.

But I’m a bit concerned by Driscoll’s injunction not to criticize him, but, instead, to direct that energy toward changing myself. It’s true that God will hold me accountable for my life – but he will also hold Driscoll accountable for his teaching. And any applications I do in my life on the basis of incorrect teaching will fail to be what God desires. Yes, I need to change my life; but no, I must not refrain from correcting theological errors in the meantime.

When someone teaches on a hot moral topic like domestic abuse, it’s tempting to think that you can’t criticize their message, because that would be endorsing domestic abuse. That’s a logical fallacy. Yes, Driscoll was correct that domestic abuse is a huge problem that isn’t talked about enough; but no, he was not correct about other emphases. So here are my concerns:

First and foremost, Driscoll asserted that some men mistreating their wives may not be Christians (the idea of fruit-as-evidence-of-salvation has significant problems, but I won’t address those here). Assuming, then, that they are not Christians, what is the gospel they hear?

  1. You’re acting wickedly.
  2. You should feel shame.
  3. Jesus died for you – how could you act like this?
  4. In response, you should start acting better, right now.

I don’t remember anything being mentioned about Christ’s offering his righteous and life-transforming power to anyone who believes in him. The call-to-action is simply to change your life right now. It’s difficult for me to see how this isn’t works-righteousness. I know that Driscoll believes and teaches justification by faith – but the message any nonbelievers would have received from him in this message is quite the opposite.

If you add Calvinism into the mix, the problem gets worse. Just last week, Mars Hill Church was highlighted in the press as a stronghold of “the New Calvinism.” But where is the reference to the Holy Spirit’s enabling work? Where are the prayers for enabling power, in order to be able to change one’s life? It’s not that Calvinists shouldn’t tell Christians to change their lives, but it’s that such a strong teaching of your responsibility, with so little mention of God’s sovereignty and enabling power, is not what you’d expect from the New Calvinism.

Humility. I believer Driscoll probably is a great dad, so there’s no need for him to pretend to be a poor one. But even just one statement of humility would have gone a long way. He said to the husbands in the audience who considered themselves great, that they might not be, and certainly have something to work on. But I don’t remember any instance of him acknowledging his own needs to grow. Paul considered himself the worst of all sinners, who constantly did what he did not want to do – and Driscoll is able to preach angrily about poor dads without any admission of his own wrongdoing?

Finally, swearing. I’m not here to judge – I have a swearing problem, especially when I’m alone, and it’s sin, and I hate it. But I’m not helped in this when pastors swear on the most popular Christianity podcast on iTunes. It’s now a common rhetorical device for pastors to swear, and then say to the congregation “you’re more concerned with my swearing than with the injustice I’m talking about” – a great rhetorical device, but horrible theology. On those grounds, I could preach about murder, steal someone’s wallet, then say “you’re more concerned about me stealing that wallet than about murder!” It doesn’t work. Murder is a sin, and theft is a sin. Don’t use your preaching about one sin to excuse another.

As always, if any of the details I’ve written about above are incorrect, please comment and I’ll correct them.

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