The Driscoll/Brierley Discussion

So who’s the bad guy in this discussion? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I recently got to listen to the Mark Driscoll interview that he had with Justin Brierley of Unbelievable? Let me go ahead at the start and present a possible bias. I do consider Justin Brierley a good friend and I have been on his program before. I consider Justin a great guy and he’s done a lot for my wife and I.

Being an Aspie, I wonder if there’s things I can see in this conversation that others might miss. I also want to state up front that what I say about Mark Driscoll is based solely on this interview. I have not seen his sermons or read his books. I am just looking at the interview and asking “Was Driscoll out of line?”

First off, I’ll say about Driscoll that I do like his style. I found a number of things he said in the interview quite amusing. Of course, that could also be because I have a sarcastic mindset. I also like the idea of him being straight forward and confrontational. I think part of the problem in America is that we Christians have let the world walk all over us and not had a spine.

As for Brierley in the discussion, I will grant that there were times I think he should have spoken more, such as when asked about Penal Substitution. Of course, I also realize that it could be that he is a moderator of a debate show and has to learn to be as neutral as possible. He could have also thought the interview was not about him and that stating his opinion could reflect that of the organization he represented and did not want to do that.

I can understand where Driscoll was coming from some in that there are times I do think Brierley can be too polite. I understand not all people are confrontational. That’s fine. At the same time, there are times where one does need to just bite the bullet and offend someone. Jesus did that several times.

Looking at Driscoll’s part, I do think he was too defensive when he told Brierley that the only parts being picked out in the book were ones that were the most controversial. Well that’s what an interview is for I think! These are the parts of the book I’ve heard about and those are the exact questions I’d want an interviewer asking. I want to know what the author thinks about the most controversial parts of his book.

I would have thought that Driscoll should have been prepared for such questions, particularly since people are wanting to know more about him and for someone so confrontational, I would have thought he would have handled that better. If anything, I would think it would be seen as a welcome opportunity to finally silence the critics. (Assuming his position is right. I’m not saying it is, but if he thinks it is, he could have seen it that way.)

Driscoll also complained that his wife did not get to speak much and it seemed like Brierley ignored her. On the contrary, Brierley said that she could speak at any time and he did not want it to be just Driscoll, but from what I gathered, it seemed like Driscoll spoke so much that Mrs. Driscoll never got a chance to say anything unless she was personally addressed. Could this be a failing on the part of Driscoll that the Mrs. does not think she can speak? I don’t know. All I have is this one interview, but I do not think Driscoll had a real basis for this complaint.

I do think Driscoll has a valid point about Britain not having a great Bible teacher. Honestly, some bloggers have thought Driscoll was thinking about himself, but I don’t see that. Our country has often had noted teachers throughout it that are known from Moody to Billy Graham. Of course, none of these fit the criteria of young. If Driscoll is known all throughout America however, it could be that he might be doing something right we can learn from. This is not necessarily so however as one could easily say Benny Hinn and T.D. Jakes are known throughout America as well.

Sometimes I thought Driscoll’s approach was too simplistic. When asked about his view on women in ministry and where he got it from he said “The Bible!” and talked about what a great book it was and how everyone should read it. Granted, I think the answer is funny and straightforward, but I wonder also since the other side, people like Brierley would also say their view is biblical.

At times, I wondered if Driscoll himself was reading his own culture into the Bible instead of understanding the culture of the Bible. You really cannot isolate Scripture from its social context and when you try to do that, you will replace it with another context, most likely your own culture.

I do think Driscoll’s answer on questions of Reformed thought was very unsatisfactory. Driscoll used the analogy of a parent saving their child against their will, but this is not what happens with God as the person who is saved at the time of being saved is NOT his child. Ephesians 2 makes it clear that we were once children of wrath.

It was odd to hear Driscoll speak around that point about people making decisions based on feelings, and later saying that when he speaks a word of prophecy, he does it based on what he feels led to do. To speak a word of prophecy sounds like a serious decision to me and Driscoll made it clear that he was, yet his basis for this was a feeling.

Now we come to the major point of disagreement. Women in ministry. Now personally, I would probably have more sympathies for Driscoll’s position. I cannot sign on the line yet about women being pastors. However, having said that, it is not a hill I am willing to die on and I definitely think women can still be active and involved in ministry.

People are talking about this and how offensive it is. No one seems to be asking one question. “Could Driscoll’s position be true?” It does not work to say that you find a position offensive. Several people find the doctrine that Jesus is the only way to be offensive and because of that say Christianity cannot be true. Christianity is offensive however. It does teach that people are sinners who can’t save themselves and must rely on Christ. There is no other way. That offends people, yet we tell them they must deal with it.

Now let’s look at Driscoll’s position. Could it be that it is biblical that women don’t pastor churches? Could it be that in fact women can be too motherly and present God in a way that might tone down some arguments? Keep in mind that this is his position and not necessarily mine. I would side more with the reasons of Lewis in an essay he wrote on this topic most likely, but let us not discount Driscoll’s view because we find it offensive. Let us do study to find if it is true. In saying this, I do not doubt that women can certainly give the hard truth if need be, but is this the way it naturally is?

For instance, many of us young men growing up knew about which parent to approach if we wanted something. If we wanted to do something questionable and/or dangerous, we went to see Dad. If we skinned our knee or needed some comfort, we went to Mom. There’s a reason for that.

Is the way to determine this to compare Driscoll’s church to Brierley’s? No. The way to do it is to have skilled researchers that know how to compare churches that have women as pastors to churches that have men as pastors and see if this is the case. Of course, if Driscoll can make his case biblically, that will settle the deal, but if we are uncertain, there is nothing wrong with looking at his question in other areas.

Note the danger we get in if we just play the offensive card. A few years ago, Lawrence Summers had to resign from a position at Harvard when he said that there are some skills men are better at than women. There was an outcry against what he said without asking one question about what he said. “Is he right?” If he is right, well he’s right and saying that it offends someone will not change the fact that he is right.

Men and women are different and God values those differences. I do believe I’d have more sympathy with Driscoll’s position because I do believe that men have been given the place of leadership and that men need to stand up and take charge of the situations around them.

This is not anti-woman at all. Those who know me know the devotion I show my Mrs. and that I do not look down on her because she is a woman. In fact, I take my position of leadership very seriously as I have to remember that when I stand before God, I give an account not only of how I turned out, but how my family turned out based on my leadership and that is a serious charge. For those who think the Bible is sexist in Ephesians 5, have you seen what it tells me I must do as a man? I must love my wife as Christ loved the church. Do you know what a calling that is? Do you know how serious that is? The Bible gives me the greatest responsibility that I must answer for.

I think it would be wrong then to say that Mark Driscoll is sexist because he holds this position. If he is sexist, it is not because of this. Elizabeth Elliot even holds the position that women should not be pastors. Does she hold this position because she hates her own sex? When we look at whether this is the way it should be, we have to look at the arguments themselves and not how we feel.

This is not to say that Driscoll’s arguments were the best of course. For Driscoll wanting Brierley to give the verses, it would have been nice if Driscoll himself had given some. Could we have had more of a discussion on passages like 1 Corinthians 11 or 1 Timothy 2?

Driscoll also emphasized getting the young men saved, but could there not be a good reason for this? In Driscoll’s view, the men are the leaders of society and if the men are living Christian lives, it could be expected the people would follow. In ancient times, if the king of a land became a Christian, it would not be a surprise for the people to soon follow suit. We can look at this statistically? Could it be that if men become Christians, more of the family is prone to follow than if the wife or a child becomes a Christian? Of course there are individual exceptions, but we must ask on a whole if Driscoll’s position is correct.

In that case, I don’t think Driscoll is sexist in saying this. Again, he could be sexist in other ways, but not in this one. Driscoll just wants men to be men and to lead their families and the best way to lead them is to be like Christ and how can they be like Christ if they do not know who Christ is?

At this point, Driscoll chooses to ask Brierley some questions. I have already briefly discussed how Brierley answered on Penal Substitution. I do not see how Brierley struggles to believe in that, but rather how he wants to be careful about how he presents it.

As for the literal Hell question, I would have asked what Driscoll meant by a literal Hell. If he meant a place that actually has flames and worms, then no. I don’t believe in a literal Hell either. That is just because I don’t believe that is what the Bible has in mind. Now I don’t think annihilationism is the way to go, but it was surprising to me how Driscoll spoke about that being a feminine position when someone he said he admires, like John Stott, held to that position. Was Stott really affected strongly be feminism?

Having said that, I don’t think Brierley was annoying or impolite in the interview. I also would not call him a liberal Christian. When I think of people we call liberal Christians, I think of ones who want the name of Christian but hold to stances that deny essential Christian doctrine, such as the deity of Christ. I do not really consider such people Christians, but there is not much other name for them in our society. I do not see Brierley backing down on essential issues.

At the end of the day, let us remember that if we are in apologetics, one question e should be asking at the start of any claim is “Is it true?” It seems too many people are jumping at Driscoll and immediately talking about how offensive they find what he says before asking the question “Is it true?”

If it is, I think we should all want to know that. If Brierley comes to the conclusion that it is true and thus, his wife needs to step down, well that will have to be accepted, but I think he’d want to do that rather than to go against the truth. If it comes that the conclusion is not true, then we have nothing to worry about. If it is, let us give thanks that it was brought to our attention so we could discover it. If it is not, let us give thanks anyway that we got to come together in a disagreement and work together on studying a position to learn if it is true.

That’s my opinions on the matter. I overall think Brierley handled himself well. I also think Driscoll does raise some points worth thinking about and we need to watch to see how we respond. We don’t want to be reactionary people but people seeking the truth in all things, even if we don’t always like that truth.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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9 Responses to “The Driscoll/Brierley Discussion”

  1. MichelleMu Says:

    “…when I stand before God, I give an account not only of how I turned out, but how my family turned out based on my leadership…”

    Is it true?

    I’m not saying it’s not true; I’m not sure. Would you lay it out for me?

  2. apologianick Says:

    Hi Michelle. I base it on Ephesians 5 and Paul tells husbands how they are to love their wives and then paints a picture of what Christ does for the church. I believe the idea husbands are being given is “This is the calling you are to strive to live up to. Christ will present His bride before the Father. You will do the same.”

  3. private Says:

    Hey Nick, I really enjoyed reading this blog post. I just listened to the interview myself and had many similar thoughts as you. On a side note,I have also questioned whether I might have asperger’s syndrome but it is also possible that I am just a hypochondriac (: I like that Driscoll is honest and forthright about what he believes but I also admire the interviewer for being so patient and forgiving. I personally lean towards conditional ism, if you don’t know what that is you should listen to a recent debate about it on the theopologetics podcast and podblog, and I understand what you said about the hell question but I also think that Driscoll was just trying to see exactly how liberal the interviewer was because he denied a basic biblical tenant that is very clearly taught in 1 Timothy that pastors are to be male and women are not to exorcise authority in the church. 1 Timothy 2:12 etc. I guess Mark Driscoll was thinking that maybe since the interviewer didn’t respect the authority of the scriptures on this point that maybe he didn’t respect the authority of the bible on more important points like the gospel which the interviewer was super squishy about.

  4. apologianick Says:

    Hi Private. I’m curious if I know you from somewhere else.

    The interviewer was Justin Brierley and his show “Unbelievable?” is well worth listening to. It is a program I make sure to keep up to date on.

    I do know about conditionalism. I disagree with it, but I know about it.

    As for 1 Timothy 2, I’m inclined to agree, but if someone does think they have an alternate reading that makes more sense with the text, I’m also open to that.

  5. private Says:

    II wish I did know you, you do seem like a nice person but I don’t think that I do. I appreciate your response to my comment.

    When I said that I lean towards conditional ism I mean bye that that If seems a plausible reading of the text and I am somewhere in the middle between belief in eternal conscious torment and the belief in limited torment then eternal punishment through destruction but if I had to choose which seems more plausible from the text and my understanding of God’s character I would choose conditional ism.

    I bring it up because although I am not sure whether or not agree with Mark Driscoll’s view on the subject, I admire his willingness to stand up and boldly say that this is what he believes because most people that I know shrink back from honestly saying what they believe. I don’t think that Mark Driscoll is perfect and I don’t agree with all of the things he says and necessarily agree with the way he does things but I have to admit that after hearing so much squishiness on the subject of the authority of God’s word and the substutionary atonement I think that it is actually kind of refreshing to hear the gospel honestly proclaimed. I hear so many people preaching false gospels, whether it is the mormons or the jws and I also hear so many Christians watering down the message so that it is barely Christian at all and is more of a moralistic pandering. I don’t see Paul or any of the other Apostles treating God’s word in this way.

    Justin Brierly seems like a nice person but I wish he would have stood up for substitutionary atonement which is so central to Christianity and really is the heart of the gospel. There are a lot of things that we could take away from Christianity and have it remain Christian but to take away the substitutionary atonement is to take away the heart of the gospel.

    It did seem as if Justin Brierly kind of attacked him on the women in the church thing and it is probably because of Justin Brierly’s personal family issue with it where his wife is a pastor I believe. It is possible that he is trying to justify something that they are doing. It’s funny but in the greek the pastoral epistles are even more explicit in the teaching that the pastor is to be a man. Just because something that we believe “which we learned from God’s Word” is offensive that doesn’t mean that we can take it out or twist the words to be something else. Christianity itslef is offensive because it teaches that man is a sinner and cannot save himself.

    It’s funny but I was sufing for more informatin n the subject and I saw that the theopologetics podcast that I had mentioned before had done a episode dealing with the subject of women in the church with carm.org founder matt slick in preperation for the unbelievable interview with mark driscoll and was very interesting. Here is a link to the episode if you are interested. The episode is titled, shes the boss. http://theopologetics.blogspot.com/2011/05/episode-40-shes-boss.html
    Matt slick goes through some of the Greek and explains why it specifically has to refer to a men being pastors and cannot be any other way. I went back and listened to the unbelievable radio program about women pastors and was very disappointed. Justin Brierly was schilling for the view and the man who he had on to debate about it had no guts and wouldn’t stand by what he believed and wouldn’t say to her “no, you cannot throw out a clear passage of scripture in exchange for an unclear one” or “no, that is not a correct interpretation of that verse, they are no longer gentile, male female etc. “in Christ” not in general terms as if they are no longer physically Jew or male or female”. It was very frustrating.

    Also, that podcast that I was talking about has a couple of debates on the topic of conditionalism. One was really impressive to me because it really went deep into the verses and didn’t just gloss over the issue.

  6. Chris Date Says:

    Thanks, @private, for mentioning my show! I’m glad you enjoyed the episode with Matt Slick. I will very likely be having Philip B Payne on in the near future, to give the opposite point of view (even though I share Matt Slick’s view). Also, I’m glad you enjoyed the episodes on annihilationism (or conditionalism). I am now a believer in it, having held the traditional view of hell for nearly the entirety of my Christian walk of almost 10 years now, until about 7 months ago or so when I prepared for and interviewed Edward Fudge. That moved me to the fence, and since then have become convinced. I am doing an episode on the topic tomorrow as well, with a couple of listeners, to discuss the recent debates and post-debate conversations.

  7. apologianick Says:

    Thanks for the further thoughts Private. I do think you should listen to Unbelievable? Justin Brierley is an awesome moderator and it’s a wonderful program.

    Chris! Thanks for visiting my blog! I thoroughly enjoyed the program with my father-in-law on there and I thank you for providing a link to my blog there. I hope you’ll keep reading here.

  8. Chris Date Says:

    No, thank you, Nick, for helping arrange for Mike to appear on my show :)

  9. apologianick Says:

    Not a problem. Just wanting to do my part to give him some good exposure in all of this.

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