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In October 2014, the controversial Evangelical pastor Mark Driscoll resigned from the network of Mars Hill churches which he founded 18 years ago.

The last service at the original church in Ballard, Washington, took place on Sunday, December 28, 2014 (H/T: Dr Gregory Jackson of Ichabod).

Sadly, the interim pastor and congregation seemed happy to listen to and watch a 45-minute sermon from Baptist pastor Rick ‘Purpose-driven Church’ Warren. Will people never learn?

Mars Hill comprised a number of churches in five states in the western US. On New Year’s Day 2015, these were either closed or assumed new independent identities. The Ballard church is now known as the Cross & Crown. It still meets in the converted hardware store.

Not surprisingly, between October and December, many congregants left the Mars Hill church network. Many of us pray that they find suitable congregations where the leadership is truly faithful to the Gospel, instead of exhibiting a macho-man aggression.

I echo Seattle Times reader Ugmo’s sentiment in the comments following the paper’s December 28 article on the Ballard church’s final service:

Those left looking for a new home for their faith might want to consider returning to a mainline Protestant church… Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist… No rants, no big video screen, no “Jesus rock and roll.” Instead, clergy with actual seminary educations, a focus on thoughtful, complex theology, good music, social outreach, tolerant politics, charity and community.

May God’s grace guide the Mars Hill people towards the true Good News — and a good church community.

This post is for adults only.

Mark Driscoll‘s latest book, Real Marriage, is a frank exploration of human sexuality.

Written from a complementarian — male headship over women and children — perspective, it won’t please Christians who find this type of thinking unbiblical. It also won’t please those who are concerned about women being exploited in marriage.

Driscoll’s church members and admirers around the world will no doubt find it of value. What follows are a few excerpts of reviews from conservative and mainline pastors alike.

Denny Burk, an Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, gives a good summary of the book’s contents and purpose. He points out that the Driscolls’ account of their own marriage is written from a Christian perspective. Chapter 10 of the book concerns sodomy, which Driscoll considers acceptable in the context of the sanctity of marriage. Please note that the book discusses Mrs Driscoll’s unfortunate sexual experiences earlier in life. Burk notes (emphases in bold are mine):

The bulk of the chapter gives an ethical assessment of a variety of sexual activities. The Driscolls invoke 1 Corinthians 6:12 as the basis for the evaluation, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” From this text, the Driscolls propose a “taxonomy” of questions to assess the different activities: (1) Is it lawful? (2) Is it helpful? (3) Is it enslaving? If one judges a given behavior to be biblically lawful, relationally helpful, and non-addictive, then it is permissible for Christians to participate in that activity. Among the activities that the authors deem permissible within this taxonomy are masturbation, fel[l]atio/cunnilingus, sodomy (on both spouses), menstrual sex, role-playing, sex toys, birth control, cosmetic surgery, cybersex, and sexual medication. The Driscolls are careful to stipulate that these are activities spouses may participate in by mutual agreement, but not that they must participate in (p. 180). No spouse should be manipulated into doing anything that violates his or her conscience (p. 178). The only item in the list deemed impermissible in every circumstance is sexual assault.

The value of the Driscolls’ taxonomy is only as good as the exegesis that it is based on, but in this case their reading of 1 Corinthians 6:12 is fundamentally flawed. The Driscolls read “all things are lawful” as if the phrase were Paul’s own declaration of Christian freedom, but that is mistaken. Almost every modern translation1 and a near consensus of commentators2 treat “all things are lawful” not as Paul’s words but as a slogan that Corinthian men used to justify their visits to prostitutes (cf. 1 Cor. 6:15). The NIV captures the correct interpretation:

“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but I will not be mastered by anything (1 Cor. 6:12).

The Corinthians may have been riffing on themes they had heard from Paul (cf. Rom. 6:14; 7:4, 6). But they had twisted Paul’s law-free gospel into a justification for bad behavior. Thus the phrase “all things are lawful” is not an expression of Christian freedom from the apostle Paul, but rather an expression of antinomianism from fornicators! Paul’s aim in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 is to correct the Corinthians’ misunderstanding. One of the reasons for the Corinthian error was the fact that they viewed the physical body as inconsequential in God’s moral economy (cf. 1 Cor. 6:13b). Yet Paul refutes the Corinthians on this point and gives them an ultimate ethical norm with respect to their bodies: “You have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God with your body” (1 Cor. 6:20) …

Paul’s question is not “Is it lawful?” but “Does it glorify God with my body?” To miss this is to miss the entire point of the text. Sex exists for the glory of God, and Paul only commends activities that glorify God with the body. In order to answer the question “Does it glorify God?,” one has to have an understanding of the purposes that God has given for sex and whether or not a given activity fits with those purposes (more on this below). This kind of reflection is absent from chapter 10 in Driscoll’s book …

The problems with the Driscolls’ advice, however, are not merely exegetical. They are also pastoral. Although some Christian authors comment on the ethics of a husband sodomizing his wife6, I have yet to find any who contemplate the reverse. Yet the Driscolls give explicit instructions to wives about how they might sodomize their husbands in a pleasurable way (p. 188). Yet where in the Bible is such an activity ever commended? The Bible only contemplates such activities in the context of homosexual relationships. The Bible condemns the “unnatural” use of bodies between persons of the same-sex (Rom. 1:26-27). Why would Christian couples emulate that unnatural use in the marital bed? What about a husband for whom such an activity might stir up homosexual desires that he has never experienced before engaging in this activity with his wife? I do not think that the Driscolls have reckoned with the view that says “immorality” (porneia) is possible within the marital bed. The Driscolls may disagree with this point of view, but they should at least engage biblical commentators who understand sodomy as a defilement of marriage.7

I can think of a whole range of other pastoral problems that might be provoked by chapter 10 …

I can only imagine how chapter 10 might land on someone whose experience has actually been one of sexual innocence. I work with college students who tend to get married at a very young age. I meet students who come from sexually broken backgrounds and others who come from sexually innocent backgrounds. Sometimes these students marry each other. I think chapter 10 has the potential to wreak havoc in such marriages where one spouse will feel a whole range of taboos to be “permissible” if he can convince his spouse to participate. This to me seems like a recipe for marital disaster, and I do not think the Driscolls’ requirement of “helpfulness” mitigates the difficulty …

In Ephesians 5, we learn that every marriage from Adam and Eve until now exists ultimately to give an enacted parable of Christ’s covenant love for His bride. In other words, the purpose of marriage is to glorify Christ—to shine a light on his redemptive love for His people

I love and appreciate the Driscolls, and I am really grateful for the testimony that they share about their own marriage … At the end of the day however, the shortcomings I have identified above keep me from giving Real Marriage an unqualified endorsement. Indeed the theological and pastoral errors of chapter 10 alone are weighty, and they are the primary reason that I would not recommend this book for marriage counseling. There are other books that have many of the strengths of Real Marriage without all the weaknesses.

Wade Burleson, pastor and blogger, encourages us to study Augustine’s writings in light of the New Testament. He points out:

for Augustine sex has a God-given purpose; and without this purpose in  the forefront of the mind, the soul becomes deadened by the lusts for sex When a married person participates in sex for the sake of its pleasures, it becomes like overeating food for the ecstasy of its taste. Damage will occur. Unlike the effects of food overindulgence, the consequences of participating in sex for the sole purpose of pleasure are hidden and unseen. Married couples, according to Augustine, who pursue sex for the sake of its pleasures are commiting a “fault” (culpa).  They have substituted pleasurable sex for God. This fault in a married couple is easily “forgivable” (venialis) because of the goodness of marriage itself, but it is a fault. If left unidentified and unresisted, it will lead to further and deeper bondage and more and more movement away from God.

How radically different is Augustine’s view to that of Driscoll’s and Young’s? I am not saying that Augustine is completely right and that Driscoll and [Ed] Young [author of Sexperiment] are completely wrong; what I’m saying is something may be out of kilter with the pronounced advocacy of enormous pleasurable sex from evangelical pulpits. If we are to believe Augustine, the problem is that those promoting the pleasures of sex are themselves addicts–chained by their lusts. I trust that my four children, all of whom love Christ and read what I write, will realize that Augustine is worth considering on the subject of sex as much as he is on the doctrines of grace.

Deb of The Wartburg Watch, a site for Christians recovering from abusive churches, was understandably unhappy to learn that Driscoll is touring American campuses giving frank talks on sex to Christian student groups. Deb’s daughter recently graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Driscoll had spoken there in 2009 on his interpretation of the Song of Solomon. Deb writes (emphases in the original):

From my vantage point, Driscoll’s antics have certainly escalated since 2009.  Now that the Driscolls are going around the country peddling their wares (Real Marriage), I find it necessary to speak out once again.  Driscoll reminds me of the indulgence preachers that enraged Martin Luther.  They traveled about Europe conning people into buying worthless pieces of paper.  I believe Driscoll is doing something very similar as he attempts to sell sex and salvation in a little red book, at least that’s how I see it.  I guess you could call Driscoll a 21st century “indulgence” preacher.

I am deeply disturbed by how Mark Driscoll is trying to influence my daughters’ generation with his not so secret agenda, which appears to be:

We love SEX (any form as long as it’s between a married couple), BEER, INDIE ROCK, TATTOOS, BODY PIERCINGS, and DOCTRINE (Neo-Calvinist, of course) — probably IN THAT ORDER.  As we learned from the tragic testimonies published here last week, Mars Hill appears to play for keeps. Based on what these escapees have shared,  Driscoll’s church reminds me of the Eagles’ Hotel California  –  “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave” — unless you are a fired elder whom Driscoll wanted to punch in the nose!

My daughter graduated from UNC last May and was involved with Campus Crusade (now “CRU”) for all four years of college.  She will tell you that Cornerstone (as it is called at Carolina) was a wonderful organization, and I have been grateful for this ministry …

Here is my concern.  When my daughter took on a leadership position in CRU, she was required to read Mark Driscoll’s Radical Reformission before attending a leadership retreat at the start of the school year.  Now that my younger daughter is involved in CRU, I would like to know how closely aligned it is with Mark Driscoll. 

In 2009, Deb’s daughter heard Driscoll speak on the Song of Solomon and asked her afterward:

“If Mark doesn’t tell us about these things, who will?” I immediately said, “Is that what Mark Driscoll claims? That is absolutely not true! You can discuss any sexual topic with me.” She and I have had quite a few “sex talks” before, and that’s probably why she felt comfortable sharing such an intimate question with me. I then went on to explain to her in a very matter-of-fact way why anal sex can have serious health consequences. Prior to this graphic discussion, I had heard a medical expert explain that the vaginal lining is twice as thick as the lining of the rectum, and that’s why anal sex can be dangerous. Remember the E. coli? I shared this information with her and explained that anal sex is just not natural. If God had intended for a married couple to engage in this kind of sex, He would have designed the female body accordingly.

The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a page on the genital human papilloma virus (HPV) (emphases mine):

Genital human papillomavirus (also called HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). There are more than 40 HPV types that can infect the genital areas of males and females. These HPV types can also infect the mouth and throat. Most people who become infected with HPV do not even know they have it …

Most people with HPV do not develop symptoms or health problems from it. In 90% of cases, the body’s immune system clears HPV naturally within two years.  But, sometimes, HPV infections are not cleared and can cause:

  • Genital warts
  • Rarely, warts in the throat — a condition called recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, or RRP.  When this occurs in children it is called juvenile-onset RRP (JORRP).
  • Cervical cancer and other, less common but serious cancers, including cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and oropharynx (back of throat including base of tongue and tonsils).

The results of sodomy also show up in an abstract from a medical paper from 1976, ‘The gay bowel syndrome: clinico-pathologic correlation in 260 cases’:

The clinical and pathological findings in a group of 260 homosexual men comprising 10% of a private proctologic practice are reviewed. A clinical pattern of anorectal and colon diseases encountered with unusual frequency in these homosexual patients is termed the gay bowel syndrome. The clinical diagnoses in decreasing order of frequency include condyloma acuminata, hemorrhoids, nonspecific proctitis, anal fistula, perirectal abscess, anal fissure, amebiasis, benign polyps, viral hepatitis, gonorrhea, syphilis, anorectal trauma and foreign bodies, shigellosis, rectal ulcers and lymphogranuloma venereum

Not so exciting now, is it?

Carl Trueman, a Reformed author and professor at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, considers the overemphasis on sex when pastors attempt to ‘engage the culture’:

… The gospel is light; it is truly beautiful.  To wake in the morning and to know that whatever darkness lurks within our hearts, the light of Christ is sufficient to dispel it all is surely glorious.  Why would one even want to dwell in any detail on the deeds of darkness when one could spend time reflecting on the magnificence of God manifest in the flesh?

I have often in the past stood with those who laughed at what we regarded as the ignorant, unsophisticated taboos of the older generation.  But now I worry about the ease with which the rising generation talks explicitly of ‘the fruitless deeds of darkness’ in the name of cultural engagement, fear of being thought passé or simply a desire to slough off the legalisms of their fathers in the faith.    You can, after all, get to heaven without ever having seen an R-Rated art house movie or having enjoyed a spectacular love life … 

A former member of Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church and leader of women’s ministry there now blogs at Practical Theology for Women. She and her husband both read the book and reviewed it. Emphases in the original in the first and sixth paragraphs; the rest in bold are mine:

… in Real Marriage, Mark and Grace recall personal events as the foundation of the book, and they project their conclusions from these personal events onto those reading it. They have brought these things into the public arena and revealed much about intimate areas of their life that affected many people in their public ministry. In light of this, silence on these issues no longer seems the righteous choice …

What stood out earlier as odd about Mark’s perspective of the past was that Grace was humbly reconciling her past, but HE wasn’t! What at first appears to be a book about their marriage is really a book about Grace’s marriage. We actually know very little about Mark’s.   From the beginning of this book, Mark has made passing references to Grace’s mistakes and abuse that lead to difficulty in their marriage, but what about him?  He had been in previous sexual relationships prior to Grace, and with Grace prior to their marriage. What affect had this had on him and how he would view relationships going forward?  Not much is said about this, in fact Mark barely recognizes his responsibility in this at all.

Grace’s words are in passive voice, and she bears the burden of her actions and consequences.  Mark’s words are active, and based on clarity from chapter 11, it is now clear he has initiated this as a process for reconnecting with his wife.   He fails to take responsibility for his part in their shared emotional baggage however, and ultimately Grace bears most of the burden. How have Mark’s previous relationships shaped his needs during sex with his wife?  He describes the change between he and Grace after marriage as unimpressive. He had experience to base this on.   How had his previous relationships influenced him emotionally?  Had previous partners he’d been with left him with scars too?  Had he been abused himself or witnessed abuse he was unable to prevent?

The role that these factors have in the story is described clearly in how Grace was able to relate to Mark, but how had these factors influenced Mark’s ability to relate to Grace?   Did he enter marriage with realistic and fair expectations on her?  He’s made progress apparently, but there is very little attention given to the emotional baggage Mark carries with him. He seemed oddly silent on these issues in his life and let Grace’s story stand on its own.

When viewed as a whole, the end gives context to the beginning and now some pieces fall into place.  This is a story told by the inside voice in Mark’s head about a period in his life when he was a pastor under pressure in a large young church …  He has yet to recognize his own responsibility in much of this, to the point that his wife is publicly apologizing to him for past offenses he participated in himself with seemingly no remorse or consequence on his part. The dichotomy between their viewpoints is striking.

… I remember Mark telling a husband publicly on the church members’ forum during those years that if he didn’t shut his wife up, Mark would do it for him. I hope his regret has caused him to reach out to that family in apology (she was also an abuse victim, sexually exploited by an older youth leader) as they left Mars Hill after that …

In Real Marriage, Mark acknowledges a past problem with pride, but he remains blind to his self-centered view of the church, the extent of his disqualifying anger problem, the true root causes of both in his life, and the long term effects that both have on those around him. When you can flippantly write off 1000 members in your church, including elders, deacons, and community group leaders, because (as he explains it) you’re burnt out based on long standing bitterness and sexual frustration with your wife stemming from a sexual encounter when she was a teenager 19 years before—well, wow, I’m at a loss for exactly how to address that

My biggest concern about Real Marriage, though, is the abundance of references to Jesus, forgiveness, and repentance without a corresponding understanding of the gospel grace that Jesus Himself teaches. I say it often, and this is a clear example – using gospel language and understanding gospel grace are two different things. The best articulations of the gospel in Real Marriage are those given by Grace on p. 126-127 and p. 137-138 as she recounts dealing with her past sexual issues in the light. But there is little corresponding from Mark about facing the wealth of his own sin and deep need. What Mark actually says in the book reveals a poor understanding of Biblical grace, particularly as Jesus describes it in Matthew 18 …

David and Sarah Vanderveen reviewed the book for the Sojourners site. (Yes, this goes against my earlier post about Jim Wallis and the Sojourners, but I found a few points of interest in this article.) The Vanderveens are married with two teenage sons. He said:

… One would hope that the well-regarded Christian publishing house Thomas Nelson would have better editorial oversight and better author management. This book is not only a troublesome read, it dispenses poor general advice, has bad scholarship and is based on a management style that is doomed to failure from the start.

Real Marriage for me wasn’t about marriage relationships at all. It was a cry for help.

Amidst the awkward, embarrassing and problematic style, I think that the book is really an example of the desperate place to which Mark Driscoll’s ministry style has led him.

She said:

The Driscolls barely address the myriad issues that can be root causes of marital strife and sexual dysfunction, including but not limited to: health problems including depression and other mental illness, hormonal imbalance, stress, and different stages of life, whether new baby, empty nest, unemployment, change of employment.

Unfortunately, solving these problems often takes more than Bible study and a pastor’s counsel—though that’s a good place to start.

Real Marriage is a poorly written, poorly researched book by a well-meaning pastor who I believe is struggling with his own sexuality and sense of self-worth. I don’t know how else to explain his weirdly inappropriate fixation on masculinity and specific sexual practices, and his failure to address the complexity of human sexuality and relationships.

It feels to me like he doesn’t really want to understand the whole person, rather he just wants to cut straight to the salacious tidbits. I realize that’s how you sell a lot of books, but still. I get the distinct impression that Driscoll is not a man at peace

So, there you have it. It seems as if Real Marriage is more for itching ears than it is for a yearning soul seeking advice about the sanctity and honourable estate of marriage.

Tomorrow: Another problem with complementarianism

The following post is for adults only.

Last week, I posted on Mark Driscoll’s type of Christianity. It’s hard to know how to describe his constant tickling of itching ears in the Seattle area at Mars Hill Church. Who knows what is going on in his church-planting Acts 29 network?

In this post, I cited an article which appeared in the Seattle Times. There, we learn that Mark grew up near a strip club in a working class neighbourhood.

Driscoll also gave the reporter his impressions of Mass in the Roman Catholic Church, in which he was raised (emphases mine):

It was like an aerobics class: stand up, sit down, kneel . . . It never intersected with food, sex, friends, going to college, getting your first job — the things kids think about.

Later on, after he became a Christian of an Evangelical Calvinist sort, he decided he wanted his very own church:

I’d never preached, run a business, gone through seminary.” But “it’s like you’re at the kids’ table at Thanksgiving and someone says: ‘Someday you’ll get to the big table.’ [Forget that]. I’ll just form my own table.

In 2007, Driscoll preached in Edinburgh (Scotland) on the Song of Solomon. He then created a series of sermons on it called The Peasant Princess. The ‘princess’ refers to the young woman in the book, who, Bible scholars say was actually a nobleman’s daughter being oppressed by her brothers. So, in reality she was neither a peasant nor a princess.

In an article from 2009, the Baptist Press described Driscoll’s interpretation of the Song of Solomon:

A May 18 interview with Driscoll, on the syndicated “Family Life” [radio] program hosted by Dennis Rainey, was halted in mid-broadcast after Bott Network founder Dick Bott learned Driscoll was the guest. Bott then cancelled another scheduled interview and ordered all Bott stations not to carry any programs featuring Driscoll …

Bott said he made the decision because of what he saw as Driscoll’s penchant for using vulgarity in his sermons, especially his questionable interpretation of the Song of Solomon in a Nov. 18, 2007, sermon preached in Edinburgh, Scotland, and subsequently in a multi-part series entitled “The Peasant Princess.”

“I’ve seen a lot [about Driscoll] that’s on the Internet and that only makes the whole thing worse,” Bott said. “I’ve seen what he said at that church in Scotland and as far as I know he’s never addressed it in any repentant way or apologetically tried to explain why on earth he got so far off the reservation as to think that that’s the way to address people.”

Driscoll’s Edinburgh sermon included graphic detail to explain his idea that Song of Solomon 2:6 encourages husbands to stimulate their wives by touching private parts of their bodies. He said chapter 7 of the book gives biblical justification for spouses “stripping” for each other and quipped that while lovemaking is better than wine, “lovemaking is great with wine.”

During the sermon, which was entitled “Sex, a Study of the Good Bits from Song of Solomon,” Driscoll interpreted Song of Solomon 2:3 as referring to oral sex and then said, “Men, I am glad to report to you that oral sex is biblical…. The wife performing oral sex on the husband is biblical. God’s men said, Amen. Ladies, your husbands appreciate oral sex. They do. So, serve them, love them well. It’s biblical. Right here. We have a verse. ‘The fruit of her husband is sweet to her taste and she delights to be beneath him.'”

Driscoll went on to tell an anecdote about a wife who he said won her husband to Christ by performing oral sex on him. Driscoll said he told her that giving him oral sex would be following the admonition of Scripture. A transcript of the sermon quotes Driscoll saying he told her, “1 Peter 3 says if your husband is an unbeliever to serve him with deeds of kindness,” referring to oral sex. Verses 1 and 2 of that chapter, however, tell wives it is their “pure and reverent” conduct that will win their unbelieving husbands.

By 2009, Driscoll was already being invited to major American conferences headed by older Calvinist pastors with their own ministries. The Christian Worldview cautioned against giving him more credibility and renown than he merited:

Oddly enough, it was a stand-up comedian, foul-mouthed Chris Rock, whom Mark Driscoll credits with teaching him how to preach. Mark claims this comedian was “a better study in homiletics than most classes on the subject.” (Confessions of a Reformed Rev, pg. 70). Therefore, would he think others should also follow his example, which will require them to fill their mind with curse words and smut in order to learn how to effectively deliver a good sermon?

Admittedly, Mark Driscoll states he is reformed in his thinking, and he can deliver a sound sermon if he wants to. But, that does not negate his reckless, irreverent treatment of God’s Word, and the crude language that proceeds out of his mouth. This only makes his ministry more dangerous. If an enemy of the faith had used the same comedy to mock and pervert the Word of God, we would see this attack for what it is. Moreover, throughout the history of the church, vulgarity and playing fast and loose with Scripture would have immediately been identified as falsehood, error, or a serious character flaw. However, for some reason, today many in the Church are compromising and excusing ungodly behavior coming from the pulpit.

We tread down this new road to our own demise. In the words of A.W. Tozer, We should and must learn that we cannot handle holy things carelessly without suffering serious consequences.

I submit that this ministry attacks the integrity of Scripture, the character of Christ, and feeds the sensual, worldly heart of man. [Emphasis here in the original.] Therefore, out of love for Mark Driscoll and the Body of Christ, there needs to be close examination and scrutiny of this ministry …

Driscoll’s sex advice offers no other scriptural basis for his views other than his interpretation of Song of Solomon. Nor does he discuss scriptural precepts that are at odds with his interpretation, like the Romans 1 warnings about anal sex — “natural for unnatural” — or the exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 4 about “sanctification and honor” in the marriage relationship, rather than “lustful passion, like the Gentiles.”

While no vulgar language was used by Driscoll in his interview with Rainey, Bott said he could not trust Driscoll, given his track record, and that he worried what might be said could damage or offend Bott’s reputation for offering family-friendly programming to a wide range of listeners …

Scriptural admonitions about “unwholesome” speech (Ephesians 4:29) and “filthiness” and “coarse jesting” (Ephesians 5:4) should give pause to any Christian, especially preachers who stand to publicly proclaim the Gospel, Bott said …

He said some of Driscoll’s interpretations of Song of Solomon passages are extreme at best and he is concerned that Driscoll is being hailed as a role model and mentor to too many, particularly young pastors.

Driscoll’s emphasis on women servicing their husbands sexually and pressing the notion of female submission reminds me of Muslim family life. Islam, as practiced, gives the husband to demand from his wife what is his — conjugal rights, whatever time of night. If she does not submit to him, not only that way but in others, he is allowed to beat her. After all, she is his property. Much of practical Islam is intended for the man, not the woman, who is considered in Sharia courts as less of a human than he is.

Driscoll’s preaching is not much different. Sure, his wife Grace takes part with his permission, in panel discussions which he leads. I did see one video of him where she starts to speak and then goes quiet. He looks at her, smiles indulgently and says something like, ‘You can say something, that’s okay’.  So, he has given her his permission.

This over-attentiveness and submission should concern faithful Christians — men and women. We have no business modelling our lives on Islam. The ‘modesty’ issue also plays into this, with Christian women warning others to cover up, because men are too easily led into sexual thoughts. That is exactly what happens among certain devout Muslims. Some Protestant women already insist on wearing veils to church. How long will it be before they are wearing ‘Christian’ hijabs and niqabs?

As far as the Song of Solomon is concerned, Andy Bannister, writing for Answering Islam, tells us:

The primary message of the book is this: that human love, marriage, and, dare I say it, sexual love, are a gift from God. If there is one area of life that we tend to get into trouble over, it is this latter area. On the one hand, you have the worst excesses of Western secular culture, where sex is cheapened and disengaged from love or, at worst, simply used as a marketing tool to sell dishwashers. And at the other extreme, you have what occurs in many Eastern cultures, where sex is seen as totally taboo, dirty, is not talked about, where women are hidden away behind closed doors. These are just two examples of the various errors into which a society can fall — cheapening sex, or writing it off as dirty and taboo. Song of Songs, and indeed other parts of the Bible, correct both errors. The poem we have just read celebrates the joy of sexual love; but within the context of a one-on-one relationship in marriage. The poem commends the shepherd and the maiden for their devoted love to one another, the maiden is praised for guarding her virtue and her virginity against all the advances of Solomon, because she is saving herself for the one she loves and wants to marry. Yet sexual love is also commended and celebrated in the poem as a gift from God to be celebrated and to praise Him for. This theme is not only found in the Song of Songs, but goes right back to the very beginning. For, as we read in the book of Genesis:

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24

What should concern us is the thought process of the young men in Driscoll’s congregation listening to these sermons. Saying that oral sex is okay is likely to encourage them to think unwholesome thoughts and thereby ignore Driscoll’s veneer of religiosity and cautions. These men could then well say to their wives — current or future — that Pastor Mark said that if a wife truly loves her husband she will perform oral sex on him.

The lady who writes Freedom For Captives warns (emphasis here in the original):

Does anyone else get it? Does anyone else see how sickeningly sexually abusive it is for Driscoll to teach young husbands (by the thousands!) that they can basically demand oral sex from their wives because, he says, the Bible strongly endorses it?! What if that wife is opposed to oral sex? What if she has past sexual abuse issues where her dad or other abuser orally raped her or forced her to perform fellatio on him? Come on, Driscoll, and everyone else, please, open your eyes! This is beyond, waaay beyond merely putting up with a “Christian brother” who has differing theological views than I do.

The man is doing and saying countless things that appear extremely abusive: spiritually, psychologically (verbal/emotional), and now sexually, in that he is outright condemning the poor woman who will not “submit” and make herself perform oral sex for her husband because it “pleases him.” Oh, and then he claims that one believing wife brought her husband to the Lord by performing oral sex on him. Okay.  I see this in John 5:9… NOT!

A few years ago, I read a couple of posts which a youngish member of a Wesleyan church wrote on his own site. He extolled Driscoll’s videos and sermons, saying that they were biblically sound. This chap, who was single with no marital prospects at the time, said that he expected his wife to be fully independent during the day, know how to handle a firearm, homeschool the kids, clean the house, make meals from scratch and — in the evenings when he was home — totally submit to him!  Ladies — be careful whom you date. That is the profile of one Driscoll admirer.

In response to her post, Freedom For Captives heard from another Driscoll admirer:

For the record I’m a 19 year old white guy, I have struggled with porno in the past, I have treated women badly in the past and Mark Driscoll has done so much to turn me away from porn and get me to treat women right. So, please keep criticizing this man of God, get angry at everything he says, keep singling him out. As for me I am going to back this faithfull preacher of the Gospel. I will hope for him, I will pray for him and I will thank God for him and on judgement day I am going to be in the crowd smiling as Christ says to Mark Driscoll “Well done good and faithfull servant”

For the record im not going to read anything else anyone posts on here. So however you choose to argue against me, it doesnt matter, you can load up your gun, but there are no deer in the forest, no ducks in the barrel, no monkeys in the trees, no nuts in the bundle… no fries left in the happy meal… im done, I wont respond any more or read any more.
Blog away!

Note how this young man, speaking as Driscoll would, is granting a woman who is probably old enough to be his mother the permission to continue blogging without him! The arrogance.

Freedom For Captives responded:

You may not read this, fine. But your response truly baffles and saddens me. I simply cannot comprehend how you could read those quotes of Mark’s, (in my June 29 comment, as quoted from The Christian World View [cited above]), find humor in them (???) and then say you now “treat women right”… pardon me, but how can that be?

You’re 19. I’m glad you shared that… I’ve stated before that the more I read of Mark, the more I think he comes across as being at the developmental level of an 8th grade boy… His apparent emotional immaturity has been noted by many others besides myself.

Mark has apparently mocked the holiness of our Lord and Savior, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, I don’t think God takes kindly to that. He has also apparently caused much damage to women and to men in his oppressive, anti-biblical teaching about women, men, marriage and sex… I don’t think he will get the “well done” on any of that.

None of us is perfect. But, when someone is a leader in Christ’s name, and leader of thousands no less, he will reap the harsher judgment for steering people wrong (see the book of James: not many of you should aspire to be teachers…) and for shaming the name of Christ.

She added in another comment:

If Paul, writing through/in the Holy Spirit, or rather the Holy Spirit writing through him, wanted to indicate authority, leader, one in charge, top dog, etc, he would have used the word commonly used for that in those times in that culture, which if I remember correctly was something like “archeon.” But he used head, “kephale,” (forgive me if misspelled) which means source

And, yes, what is confusing at times is that Mark can and does say/teach some really good things… at times… But as a friend pointed out to me the other day, “A little poison will still kill you.” And I would say that there appears to be more than a little poison in the overall message that Driscoll offers, and in the apparently controlling/bullying way he offers it– repeatedly, in patterns, consistently over time.

I’ve watched a few Driscoll videos, as many as I could stomach, and his carnal message outweighs his Christian message. I did not hear a mention of grace, freedom for the spiritually oppressed or anything on Christ and Him crucified.

This new type of preaching is called ‘missional’. Today’s definition of ‘missional’ has nothing to do with the most godly evangelists of the 19th and 20th centuries but instead plays to a congregation’s carnality.

Tomorrow: Mark Driscoll versus the sanctity of marriage

Last week, I cited Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church as an example of toxicity.

When I first started reading about him a few years ago, I wondered what his background was. The only Driscolls I ever knew were Roman Catholics.

Driscoll, for those who are unaware, founded the Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, as well as the Acts 29 network of churches. His is an Evangelical Calvinist theology.

He has an odd way of combining the religious with the carnal. However, as Janet I Tu wrote for the Seattle Times, perhaps it’s no wonder:

The oldest of five siblings, he grew up in a house behind a strip club in SeaTac [Seattle-Tacoma area]. He saw drive-by shootings there, drug dealing. Being close to all that, “it’s not enticing. I think that’s what kept me out of trouble.” He also had a strong father who “made it really clear that ‘my kids don’t do certain things, and that’s the way it’s going to be.’ “

He’s a tough, streetwise kinda guy:

He says he didn’t have a drink until he was 30, never tried drugs. But he always had a temper. “If you [annoyed me], I beat you up.”

So, it’s better to be teetotal than to beat your opponents up. However, as long as there have been pietist and holiness Protestants, Catholics have not been untouched by this type of thinking. One might suspect that there might have been a drink problem among a Driscoll antecedent which would have brought on a family prohibition.  Who can say?

Here is how Mark describes his early Christian upbringing (emphases mine):

His parents were devout Irish Catholics and until age 13, he went to church weekly. But the meaning of Mass eluded him. “It was like an aerobics class: stand up, sit down, kneel . . . It never intersected with food, sex, friends, going to college, getting your first job — the things kids think about.”

He stopped going to church and got involved in sports and student government. At Highline High School, he captained the baseball team, edited the school paper, served as student-body president.

So, he never had a drink until he was 30 and yet thought that Mass was ‘like an aerobics class’? Also, if his parents were ‘devout Irish Catholics’, why wasn’t he better catechised and taught about the Order of the Mass? I, too, am an ex-Catholic and would never think of referring to it as ‘an aerobics class’.

Incidentally, this is what Christ said about ingesting:

18 “… Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20And he said, ”What comes out of a person is what defiles him.” (Mark 7:18-20)

St Paul said (1 Timothy 5:23):

Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.

Although he intended that for St Timothy, the young evangelist, it could also pertain to an adult who was experiencing occasional digestive upsets.

And what about Proverbs 31:6?

Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish.

However, it seems as if alcohol was a distant runner compared with ‘food, sex, friends’. This would show up later in his ministry.  And it seems that even in secondary school, he was already developing a gift for the gab.

Meanwhile, it was his girlfriend and future wife Grace who got Mark started on the Bible:

Driscoll went to Washington State University on a Fulbright scholarship. He considered going into politics or journalism — something where he could influence. He certainly wasn’t interested in being a minister. He remembers reading the New Testament in college in two weeks — mainly because he was smitten with Grace, who had given him a Bible. He immediately disagreed with most of what he’d read.

Of course, he didn’t think he was a sinner. One wonders if this is the sin of pride he seemingly acknowledges yet projects on his congregation — that they, too, somehow do not think they are sinners.

It wasn’t until he read St Augustine that he

realized pride was the worst sin. That was like a kick to the groin.

St Augustine was a libertine until he began reading Roman classics and from there delved into Holy Scripture.

That, too, must have been a revelation to Driscoll. Perhaps he recognised himself in Augustine’s writings.

He testified to Ms Tu, the Seattle Times reporter:

God told him to marry Grace, preach the Bible, plant churches, train men. He married Grace, graduated, worked as college outreach pastor at Kirkland’s Antioch Bible Church.

It’s funny that John MacArthur has never said that God told him to go to Grace Community Church. Yes, he had always hoped to have his own church, start a seminary and train men to serve God, but it does not appear that he received a divine message in this regard.

I also doubt whether MacArthur viewed the ministry the way Driscoll did:

I’d never preached, run a business, gone through seminary.” But “it’s like you’re at the kids’ table at Thanksgiving and someone says: ‘Someday you’ll get to the big table.’ [Forget that]. I’ll just form my own table.

Is that a good and humble way to view service to Christ’s people? (Driscoll did attend Western Seminary.)

And the way he describes Judgment Day?

the party to end all parties, the good time to end all good times

Most of us consider it seriously and solemnly, hoping that we will be able to see Christ face-to-face and be in God’s kingdom for eternity. We never thought it was going to be a party.

So, how would Driscoll’s preaching play out in church? One woman — the author of Freedom For Captives — who attended Mars Hill occasionally with her husband wrote:

In his Spiritual Warfare series Mark states that when he counsels couples “Invariably one feels their sex life is fine and the other is not satisfied.” He says this is a wedge between them and “it is Satanic,” that is, demonically influenced. He goes on to say, “It is like Satan is sleeping in bed between the two of you.” He implies the wife should not hold out on her husband, that if both parties are not getting all the sex they want and if it is not “fun and exciting” there is “Satanic” involvement. Nothing is said about the woman’s possible if not probable prior sexual abuse.

After three years of grad study to earn my masters to be a psychotherapist and 2 years of doing therapy with deeply traumatized women, those statements and implications of Mark’s are absolutely abhorrent to me. Many studies report that 1/3 to 1/4 of women have been sexually abused (e.g., childhood incest, rape, etc). This kind of trauma often causes severe, complex PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), which includes terrifying, panic stimulating flash backs, dissociation, avoidance, and hypervigilance. This has very little if anything to do with one’s cognitions (thoughts) and very much to do with one’s emotional brain (the amygdala) taking over due to various cues in ones environment or unwanted, unelicited flashbacks. Therefore, it is not under one’s conscious control or one’s will power or one’s spiritual beliefs and memorization of Scripture.

Mark is not a therapist, to my knowledge, and certainly not a Traumatologist, and he is therefore treading on waters he knows absolutely nothing about… he seems to think a few short Scriptures and some counseling where he convinces this poor woman that she needs to, according to him, “repent of believing lies” will cure her and the sex “problems” in her marriage.

You would no doubt be forgiven if you thought of the aforementioned strip club after reading this passage. I did. Given abused women’s circumstances — of which there are bound to be more in our age of sexual freedom, now encompassing nearly two generations — perhaps the wisdom of the Holy Spirit is guiding them, not Satan. An abused woman does not need more pain in her life, especially of a sexual nature. If anything, it seems that Driscoll’s preoccupation with sex and scatology in his sermons reveals a possible  carnal nature.

On a post about the closure of the women’s blog at Mars Hill in 2008, near the end, one of the women (Anonymous, April 30, 2008, 12:24 PM) says:

Driscoll envisions himself as the head, or “father”, of a movement. He has often joked that his goal is “world domination.” Is that sinful?

So, what are we to think? That Mark Driscoll is a young Dominionist in postmodern clothes? Or, alternatively, the next Rick Warren? Who is he exactly and what is he really after?

It all seems very confused. And if it is confused for the onlooker, imagine what it must be like to be listening to him week after week. As to his Calvinism, well, that’s another matter entirely.

The author of Freedom For Captives is right in making this assessment. She wisely has no answers here but says:

When Peter became overly concerned with John’s walk with Jesus and whether or not he would remain alive until the Lord’s return, Jesus told Peter to never mind about John, “you follow me.” Why is it that certain anxious men must so vehemently demand that women submit to them? Why don’t they leave that “command,” if it is such, up to the women to fulfill or not, just as we are all called to choose whether or not to obey the Lord on many various issues. This is harmful enough when male laity behave in such a manner, but it is exceptionally abusive when men use their church positions (and usually false authority) to coerce women into obedience to their desire to rule and reign (all in the guise of obeying Scripture, of course).

I find it awfully suspicious that some “Christian” men are so extremely invested in ensuring that women “obey” a few cherry picked Scriptures! This is very cult like. This is what cults do. That is why MH’s stance on women and the testimonies of those harmed by this caught my attention, along with other aspects which match up with VanVonderen’s and Dr. Enroth’s descriptions of church abuse. Cults use various Scriptures out of context also in order to control the cult members. Driscoll, and others like him, use Scripture passages which are difficult to translate, to understand and to apply correctly partly due to one glaring reason: they seem to contradict the gender equality Jesus teaches, Paul teaches and Gen 1-3 teaches and which many other Bible passages exemplify. Conversely, you do not find women in an uproar about husbands not loving their wives properly and not giving their lives up for them, now do you? …

Freedom4Captives is about analyzing and highlighting what appears to be CHURCH ABUSE at Mars Hill. The more I read of mind control, aberrational “Christian” churches and of cults, the more I see similarities in Driscoll’s style of “leadership” (control) and the Mars Hill system.

Personally, I do not know. Nor do I have an answer. However, Mark Driscoll is said to have an increasing following in the UK. Furthermore, many Protestants have not appreciated Driscoll’s somewhat flippant — others might say lightearted — approach to Christ and to relationships. We didn’t grow up with this approach, nor did we grow up with ‘federal headship’, another idea now almost into its second generation. Again, I would urge caution on church membership and subjective feelings of security and protection, particularly on the part of women.

Tomorrow: Mark Driscoll and the Song of Solomon

What follows is an illustration of a controlling pastor.

This video shows Mark Driscoll, lead pastor of Mars Hill Church (MHC) in Seattle, Washington, which could probably be best described as an Evangelical Calvinist church. Here Mr Driscoll apologises for his absence of humility in an artful way, with helpful notes from the video maker to show the degree of control and manipulation going on. In other words, what appears to be an act of humility and a request for forgiveness by the congregation is a disguised warning to the congregation to not pry too closely into church affairs:

The person who uploaded the video says:

He is saying “I have not been humble, I am proud. Therefore because I have been proud many of you members are also proud. So we will not listen to you and your concerns, even if valid, because of your pride. I repent of my pride and will now teach you to be humble.” In fact, he talks about how the church will humble you or exalt you. In fact that is not the church’s role at all.

Freedom For Captives is a blog for those who have attended Driscoll’s church and left confused or angry. One of the posts discusses the aforementioned video. Excerpts follow, emphases in bold mine:

“People who have misused their spiritual power have disrespected or beaten down your boundaries. They have shamed you out of your ‘no,’ clouded your will and intruded into your life with religious agendas. They have violated your spirituality by playing ‘Holy Spirit.’ Having an opinion has come to equal lack of submissiveness. Having a right to not be abused is selfish.”

(1991, David Johnson & Jeff VanVonderen, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church, p. 47).

From a NY Times article, Jan 6, 2009, Who Would Jesus Smack Down, by Worthen, and from readings of Driscoll’s book, Vintage Church, and listening to various of Mark’s sermons (especially part 2 on Spiritual Warfare, see notes of this in another blog), I get the impression that at Mars Hill Church (MHC) and particularly by Mark Driscoll (pastor), women are viewed and treated—despite words to the contrary—as second class citizens

From my understanding of the Membership Covenant and instructions to members, MHC Members are commanded not to take their grievances to other members, only to the leadership or elders. But what if the elders are the very ones who are in sin, who have oppressed and done unjustly? So you go to them, and you are ousted as a trouble maker …

According to Dr. Enroth [Ronald M Enroth, author of  Churches That Abuse] you can have a very Evangelical, Word based church and it can still be a cult in its spiritual abuse and control. What I ran into at MHC is very sad to me because in many ways Mark seems to be really preaching the truth and thousands of young people are getting saved; BUT I can never, ever condone any kind of abuse and control which strips people of their God given autonomy and their God given dignity and which therefore demeans and confuses them making them slaves to another person …

Mark told stories stressing the importance of “submission to your leaders” and not being “rebellious and divisive.” He gave an illustration that he would be like a Martial Arts instructor in how he deals with difficult subordinates, “I take them into the ring and I break their nose.” Nice. Jesus is the one who tells us that leaders in the world “lord it over those under them, but not so with you.” Jesus came to be a servant; how much more his leaders. I’ve also heard it said that the more a husband needs to claim Eph 5, “my wife HAS to submit to me!” the more he, not she, has the problem. A loving husband, laying his life down for his wife, does NOT need to demand submission.

Likewise, according to Jeff VanVonderen in his book, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, the more a leader teaches on submission and rebellion, and the more controlling he is, the more he actually disqualifies himself from being a leader. Mark appears to spend a lot of his preaching on insubordinate members, former members, often using as examples those who displeased him, questioned him, “were divisive,” those who are sinful, prideful believers who ruin churches. The message is apparent, “If you want to survive here, you’d better not do any of the things they did or you too will be cast out!” A psychologist told me recently that people have a “visceral response to being cast out. It threatens at the core our sense of belonging. If you are cast out of the family group, you become tiger food.”

Jesus’ little “s” shepherds are not to control and manipulate His sheep, they are to be compassionate and humble and serve the sheep and take care of them, not demand complete and total submission. I was reading Dr. Enroth’s book, Churches that Abuse, and the issue of control, control, control came up over and over again as the NUMBER ONE INDICATOR of abusive churches. What I see in Driscoll is a lot of demand for a lot of control, and as the NY Times article stated, “Driscoll has little patience for dissent”…

” … When one of the renegade elders refused to repent, the church leadership ordered members to shun him. One member complained on an online message board and instantly found his membership privileges suspended. “They are sinning through questioning,” Driscoll preached …”

In the Spiritual warfare series Mark goes on and on about how satanically influenced women apparently often become, and he calls them “busy bodies” and “the weaker vessels” in regards to their character and their susceptibility to temptation. Not all women are “busybodies,” Mr. Driscoll, despite Paul having addressed some as having been so, and men can also be gossipy little busy bodies. And as to “weaker vessels” many theologians state this was regarding our physiology. There’s really no indication it’s about our character.

What I am seeing thus far are plenty of red flags, sometimes flaming red flags.

I did not find Driscoll to be a disagreeable man to meet, not at all. He can come across (when he’s not yelling from the pulpit) as sensitive, caring, and humble. But he seems to have this other side that often shows up which is dogmatic on doctrines in Scripture which are not clear (such as Calvinism as the only way to view God’s Sovereignty and His work in redeeming hearts, and the Complimentarian view).

According to my understanding of Mark’s book, Vintage Church, besides agreeing to Mark’s doctrines, per the Membership Covenant, a prospective member must agree to “not be divisive” and to “sign a pledge” that you will give regularly financially and of your time in volunteer work. MC states they will send you quarterly reminders. If you slack off in giving, I’ve read that your core group will “hold you accountable,” or something to that effect. Signing a covenant with a church and signing a pledge to give one’s money and time are unbiblical, legalistic and very controlling. They are abuses of church authority.

Mark does not seem to allow anyone to question him. He has created By- Laws wherein he and the other four hand picked elders make up the group of elders, and from what I read it would be next to impossible to fire him. So now he has tenure.

From his statements in his Spiritual Warfare Series, part 2, he seems to demand quiet submission from women, and he appears to demean women who have opinions and speak about what they want, such as, “I want to be married to a pastor.” Mark says to single men, “Run. She’s satanic. She wants to be in the middle of things and have power and be a drama queen.” Well who says? How do you know her heart, Mark? That may or may not be true. But see, she is a strong woman who knows what she wants which, according to former members, is a big “no, no” at MHC. Mark goes on to say that the woman who really wants to be a leader of women’s ministries is the one to avoid for the same reasons. Then his voice becomes soft and gentle as he says that the woman who is quiet and non-assertive, who wouldn’t even ask for that position, she is the one that would be best in that position. Well, that kind of temperament certainly wouldn’t cause Mark many problems and would be more easily controlled.

He said he protects his wife, “You bet I do! I’ve put up a 12’ high wall, with machine gunned armed guards. Women will say to her, ‘oh let’s do coffee.’ Uh uh! Those are busy bodies! That’s Satanic. A couple will say, ‘oh let’s have you for dinner,’ uh uh!” Whoa! This sounds extremely paranoid and controlling to me. He seems really concerned that people are trying to get the dirt on him through his wife, and maybe this has been his experience, but man. Does your wife have NO SAY re: with whom she might like to have coffee? Does she need your permission? So apparently he lords it over his wife and his people in his church, and he teaches men in the church to likewise lord it over their women

Mark has also preached about “being able to see into people’s hearts, and read their mail” (as in their personal business/issues) … He has said, “Their hearts aren’t right…” when describing those who question him. If that is the case, there would be no protection from such a one as Mark and no way to get justice within that system ruled by Mark …

The experience of ‘worship’ at MHC felt stifled to me. The music was grunge… well, okay, I’m all right with alternative, but this was a bit weird, but although the words were heavy-handed gospel, there wasn’t much if anything about entering into deep worship of our loving, awesome Lord. The thousands of young people around us were not getting into freely worshiping either … there was no celebration, no feeling of liberation, no adoration of the One who loved us enough to die for us.

I do not think I would have ever been welcomed at MHC unless I would have ditched my entire personality. I get the impression that in order to please men (Mark and the other male leaders at MHC), I would have had to submit to what I can only describe as soul-murder, the death of who God really created me to be. I am an outgoing, very verbal female, who knows some stuff and likes to share it, AND I am a therapist (Psychology seems to be frowned on at MHC). The worst thing you can do to me is try to shut me down, to steal my voice. I am a questioner, an analyzer, this is how I learn and process. I think that what that church would have done to me, what Mark would have done to me, would only be a crazy-making, cruel retake of past abuse in my life. God, I thank you for sparing me! I pray you would release others as well. Bring Mark humbly to his knees and remove from him any false power not from you. Rescue these young people who are so impressionable and who are new converts and know no better. Set them all free to obey YOU out of a heart of love, not dictatorial fear. Amen.

The blogger cautions Christians — women, in particular — against a more subtle pastoral manipulation, which she experienced elsewhere years before:

He was educated, a good speaker, eloquent, powerful, but, unlike Mark, he actually came across as humble (false humility), that is, unless he was psychologically manipulating you into a vice and pressing you so tightly with his version of mind control you just couldn’t think clearly anymore, and unless he was telling you how pathological you are because you’re questioning him and doubting his motives. There appear to be a lot of similarities between that abusive spiritual leader and Driscoll in their abusive styles, even though one is extremely dogmatic and conservative and the other is extremely liberal. Abusers come in all stripes.

That’s the sort I know — and only one, thankfully. Couple that with faulty theology — very much the opposite of Driscoll’s, yet equally flawed — and this type of pastoral leadership is equally suspect. I’ve read on Catholic blogs of similar episodes. An older woman quietly pointed out to a pastor that he omitted the creed during Mass; the priest whispered, ‘Don’t you dare criticise me,’ by way of reply.  However, married couples — with the husband opposing pastors and elders — with regard to liturgical or doctrinal ‘innovations’ can end up in a disciplinary situation. Therefore, this is not necessarily a woman-only scenario.

One of Freedom For Captives‘s readers wrote in:

My former pastor did this too!
Crazy thing was, he didn’t read their hearts as much as project his own sins upon them.
No where was that more clear than in his attitude toward the youth.
Because he was a wild, uncontrolable helli[o]n, that was motivation he projected on the youth. He bashed them frequently.

NOW, a couple of these youth he bashed…
One is a brilliant Doctor and Mayo Clinic.
Another is an F-16 pilot in the Air Force.
While this pastor has had to dis[s]olve his church, is separated from his wife, and it looks like there may be a divorce.

He didn’t see into their hearts.
He didn’t read their mail.
He created an idea in his heart about their hearts that matched his heart when he was a teen, not based in any prophetic ability.
But based on the same thing he does to God.
He projects onto God his own desires and thinkings and intentions (at least the ones he considers good). And he projects on those who have dared to question him his own desires and thinkings and intentions and labeled them bad.

Freedom For Captives offers this checklist of controlling churches which should ring warning bells. Whilst these are specifically about Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill, they are also pertinent to other congregations around the world:

Controlling Pastor with “Yes Men” Elders;

– No Talk Rule;

No Dissent;

Emphasis on Submission and Obedience;

– Shunning of “Unrepentant” Former Members;

Dis-fellowshipping “Questioners” and Critical Thinkers;

– By-Laws Removing Accountability of Pastor/Elders;

Mind and Thought Control;

Membership Covenant and Financial Giving Pledge Required;

“Biblical” Counseling Only, if Referred Out, Must Sign Release Form (no confidentiality allowed);

– Kangaroo Court Firing of Two Elders Who Dared to Question;

Extreme Gender Role Enforcement;

Members Must Attend Accountability/”Community” Groups.

Many of those are characteristics of pietist and holiness churches, particularly the signed membership ‘covenant’, enforced pledging and accountability (‘small’ or ‘cell’) groups. Please be careful.

This sounds quite Islamic. Islam is becoming increasingly insular in the West whilst becoming more public in its perspectives on family life and sex roles. No good Muslim argues with his imam. The woman stays at home or is employed outside it under controlled conditions.  Women are made to submit for their ‘protection’ and ‘God-given’ role. In the extreme context of this role, they are quiet and cover up most of their bodies in ‘modesty’. Men are supreme. The man runs the household and dictates the spiritual and temporal life therein. Islam appeals to men because it gives them the opportunity to ‘lord’ their authority over others. This is why their prison ministries attract so many disaffected male prisoners. It gives them power over others; they have licence to become religious dictators in their own homes.

This Islamic tone sounds suspiciously like the church and family life which Mark Driscoll and a few other pastors are promoting in the 21st century.

It is still unclear whether there is a conscious goal on the part of certain Christian pastors or vicars to push their church members into communitarianism leading to an Islamic lifestyle. However, Rick Warren is working on a joint Christian-Islamic statement of co-operation on projects for the ‘common good’.

Depending on the congregation, this new Christian communitarian lifestyle could be a conservative pietist-holiness kind or a liberal social gospel variant, getting everyone ‘involved’ and ‘committed’ to church and interfaith ‘projects’.

Tomorrow: More on Rick Warren’s reaching out to the Muslim community

A 2008 video of pastor Mark Driscoll has been making the rounds of the Christian blogosphere during the last few weeks.  He is, quite possibly, among the types of pastors John MacArthur warned us about yesterday.

Driscoll, who is something of a Calvinist Charismatic (my term), claims he sees events in other people’s lives.  Unfortunately, these are either sordid, sinful or violent.  Here’s part of the transcript (for adults only!!):

Some people actually see things. This may be gift of discernment. On occasion, I see things. I see things. Uh, like I was meeting with one person and they—they didn’t know this, but they were abused when they were a child. And I said, “When you were a child you were abused. This person did this to you, physically touched you this way.”

He said, “How do you know?”

I said, “I don’t know. It’s like I got a TV right here. I’m seeing it.”

Um, uh, there was one women I dealt with. She never told her husband that she had committed adultery on him early in the relationship. I said, “You know—” (she’s sitting there with her husband). I said, “You know I think the root of all this—I think Satan has a foothold in your life because you’ve never told your husband about that really tall blonde guy that you met at the bar …

“I see everything.”

She … looks at her husband. He says, “Is that true?”

She says, “Yeah.”

So I say—tell me everything you hear, tell me everything you see. And sometimes I see things too. I see things too. I’ve seen women raped. I’ve seen children molested. I’ve seen people abused. I’ve seen people beaten. I’ve seen horrible things done. Horrible things done. I’ve seen children dedicated in occultic groups and demons come upon them as an infant by invitation. And I wasn’t present for any of it, but I’ve seen it visibly.

You know, if that were happening to me, I’d be very afraid of a demon infestation and on my knees praying for God’s help.  Yet, some see this aberration as a gift from God.  Apparently, Mark Driscoll does.

The stories I read online — occasionally and unavoidably — about people experiencing the depths of Hell or an Exorcist-type bed-spinning scene or some other horrible thing never fail to amaze me.  Why would that be a divine vision from God or Jesus?  In each case, the people experiencing these visions or attacks go and make money from recounting them either in lectures, in books or small film productions.

When has God ever ‘tested’ or given people in the Bible the ‘gift’ of demonic experiences? Sure, Satan tempted Jesus in the desert, but that wasn’t a divine gift, that was Satan trying to lure Jesus with temptation.  It’s an entirely different proposition.  Besides, it was a conversation between the two.

This is why many members of mainline Protestant and Catholic churches are wary of seemingly charismatic gifts.  One, they take our eye off of Christ.  Two, they focus the attention on us.  Three, they are sensational.  Four, they have no post-canonical (as in canon of the Bible) or historical reference point in the Church except as heresy or error.

Phil Johnson, who is a pastor with John MacArthur’s GraceToYou Ministries, writes at Pyromaniacs (emphases in the original):

WARNING: This is an extremely disturbing video, for multiple reasons:

– This is bad teaching. The biblical “Gift of discernment” has nothing to do with soothsaying and everything to do with maturity, clear understanding, the ability to make wise and careful distinctions, and (especially) skill in differentiating between holy and profane, clean and unclean, truth and falsehood (Ezekiel 44:23; Hebrews 5:14).

– The counsel Driscoll gives is bad counsel. If by his own admission Driscoll’s divinations are not “a hundred percent always right,” he has no business accusing people of serious sins—including felony crimes—based on what he “sees” in his own imagination. Much less should he encourage his congregants to dream that they have such an ability and urge them to “use that gift.”

– The salacious details he recounts are totally unnecessary. They serve only to reinforce the concern some of us have raised: Why does Driscoll have such a fixation with obscene subject matter, ribald stories, and racy talk? The smutty particulars regarding a counselee’s tryst in a cheap hotel are not merely unnecessary; “it is disgraceful even to speak of [such] things” (Ephesians 5:12).

– For that same reason (among others), these yarns aren’t even believable. The Holy Spirit’s own eyes are too pure to behold evil, and He cannot look on wickedness (Habakkuk 1:13). So why would He display pornographic visions to Mark Driscoll, whose mind and mouth are already too lewd anyway?

– This proves that cessationists’ concerns are not far-fetched. Reformed charismatics frequently complain that it’s unfair for cessationists not to expressly exempt them when we criticize the eccentricities of the wacko fringe mainstream of the larger charismatic movement. But Reformed charismatics themselves aren’t careful to distance themselves from charismatic nuttiness. John Piper was openly intrigued with the Toronto Blessing when it was at its peak. (If he ever denounced it as a fraud, I never heard or read where he stated that fact publicly.) …

– Thus we see that the leaky-canon view leaves the church exposed—not only to the whimsy of hyperactive imaginations, but (as we see here) to the defiling influence of an impure mind as well.

In an older post on Reformed ‘Type-R’ Charismatics, Johnson writes (emphases in the original):

… the charismatic belief that it’s normative for Spirit-filled Christians to receive extrabiblical divine revelation through various mystical means has opened the door for all kinds of mischief.

I would not for a moment deny that there are some relatively sane and sensible charismatics who love Scripture and generally teach sound doctrine while avoiding most of their movement’s worst errors. I think they represent a fairly small minority of the worldwide charismatic community, but they do exist …

Candor, and not a lack of charity, requires me to state this conviction plainly: The belief that extrabiblical revelation is normative does indeed “regularly and systematically breed willful gullibility, not discernment.” Even the more sane and sober [Type-R] charismatics are not totally exempt from the tendency.

… (in early 1992), John MacArthur, Lance Quinn, and I met with Paul Cain and Jack Deere in John MacArthur’s office at Jack Deere’s request. Deere wanted to try to convince John MacArthur that the charismatic movement—especially the Vineyard branch—was on a trajectory to make doctrinal soundness and biblical integrity the hallmarks of Third-Wave charismatic practice. He brought Cain along, ostensibly so that we could see for ourselves that Cain was a legitimate prophet with a profound gifting.

But Cain was virtually incoherent that day. Lance Quinn remarked to me immediately afterward that it seemed as if Cain had been drinking heavily. (In retrospect it seems a fair assumption that this may indeed have been the case.) Even Deere apologized for Cain’s strange behavior that day, but Deere seemed to want us to assume it was because the Spirit was upon Cain in some unusual way …

That meeting was extremely eye-opening for me. Deere was unable to answer basic questions about certain practices Lance and I had personally observed him participating in at the Anaheim Vineyard just a few weeks before that meeting …

I left that meeting amazed that anyone would give credence to such “prophets.” But several of the best “Reformed Charismatic” leaders—all citing Grudem for authority—continued to give credence to Cain, the Kansas City Prophets, and others like them for a long, long time. Some of the Reformed Charismatics who lent Paul Cain undue credibility did not really renounce him as a prophet until about twelve years later, when his personal sins finally came to light.

And gullibility about whether God has really spoken or not is seriously dangerous …

I do realize some people are uncomfortable with such a firm stance against the charismatic position. I’m equally uncomfortable with the charismatic position itself.

The Pyromaniacs return to this subject a lot, and, still, many of their drive-by commenters don’t get it.  Each of their posts cited here has a flood of comments from a few Charismatics, Reformed or otherwise, who insist that the apostolic gifts in laying on of hands and preaching in tongues still hold true today.

Dan Phillips, also a Pyro, tried another tack in 2006 (emphases in the original):

When I was preparing, years ago, to preach/teach through Colossians, I was struck with how Paul responded to incipient heresy in that congregation …

The approach of the false teacher in Colosse (the references to him are all in the singular: 2:4, 8, 16, 18) was the same then as it is today: he was a charismatic individual who came in with special, personal, private revelation, special truths, special methods, all of which were must-have’s for the person who really wants to have a top-grade spiritual experience. He excluded the “mere Christians” in Colosse as not having fully arrived.

How does Paul counter this? In Colossians the apostle mostly makes sidelong allusions to the false teaching. Paul does not get into a point-by-point explication and refutation of the Colossian heresy, as it has been called. Rather, he focuses on Christ, His person and work, His fullness …

Not only does Paul lay down solid teaching about the person and work of Christ, but he dwells on ways to make personal use of the truth. Chief among these is thankfulness. Again and again Paul either expresses gratitude, or says that all believers should be grateful, should give thanks. We see it at least in 1:3, 12; 2:7; 3:15-17; and 4:2 …

And if God’s word is everything the triune God says it is, then where is the rationale for endowing our emotions, our hunches, our intuitions, our peculiarities, with sacred and canonical status? Our feelings become mere feelings, our hunches mere hunches. We are “stuck” with having to study, work, pray, think, analyze, reason, explain, take accountability, shoulder responsibility. We have no more holy trump cards hidden up our sleeves that no one else can see. We can’t pull out our cherished “the Lord told me” cards, or our “I just feel led to” cards, and end the debate. All we have is that Bible out there, that everyone else can see, study, learn, and meditate over just as surely as we. We have to agree with the Holy Spirit that it is what He said it was: sufficient (Deuteronomy 29:29; Psalm 119; 2 Timothy 3:15-17, etc. ad inf.), and we study it to know His mind (2 Timothy 2:7). We’re on a level playing field; we have no mystical “gotcha” from God.

And ex-Charismatics feel a certain confusion and betrayal once they come out of ‘signs and wonders’ mode.  Slaughter of the Sheep is a blog for ex-Charismatics as well as a discerning ministry to warn people off of this type of Christianity. Some of the blog’s readers have been deeply hurt by their experiences — or lack thereof — in these churches.  Some have been told that if they had only had more faith they would have ‘experienced’ what everyone else in the congregation was — writhing on the floor, speaking in tongues and so forth.  Not only is such teaching false, as Johnson says above, but it is also dangerous.

Furthermore, the more publicity this movement gets in the mainstream media, the stupider it makes Christians look.  It must be the Devil’s finest hour trying to make Christ and His followers look foolish, which is an entirely different proposition than being a fool for Christ.

Here is a sampling of comments on the Pyromaniacs’ posts (emphases mine):

stratagem: I was in the charismatic vein for decades, and here are my motives for leaving it, to the best of my ability to express them:
1) I grew tired of an environment where the nuttiest thing that cropped up, was the thing that got the most attention and adulation.
2) I grew tired where any proposal (especially by the most unstable people present) became unquestionable as long as someone was willing to say that the Lord spoke to them.
3) I grew tired of hearing “messages” in tongues that were virtually the same week after week, being interpreted as something different each time, and the interpretation always being something vague that couldn’t be nailed down.
4) I grew tired of being handed predictions from shady organizations of prophets, that never came true, but that never stopped them from continuing to hand them out.
5) I grew tired of passages of the bible being interpreted sometimes in light of extra biblical revelations, unsupported by any scholarly foundation.
6) I grew tired of youngsters being installed as elders, because supposedly God told someone they should be.
7) more than anything, I got tired of feeling ashamed that the Christian faith was being associated not with great power, but with great foolishness.

Bill Honsberger:The second in command for the Vineyard once told me that one of the big problems during their heyday was that you always needed a bigger dog and pony show then what you brought last year. Pretty much says it all doesn’t it?
Much like the first karate dojo signifies the end of the financial health of any given strip mall – so the obscenity of PTL, TBN, Daystar and the rest shows the end of the spiritual health of the American Christian church. And worse – it is the main export to countries all over the world.
Lord please forgive us.

Celeste: I’m out in South Texas, and out here it’s really difficult to find a church that is not charismatic. I was raised in a charismatic church, and all of our Christian family members are charismatic. I have spent the last 3 years at a cessationist church, learning proper doctrine and the importance of context (doctrine was a naughty word in my last church).
PLEASE continue to speak out against this issue of extrabiblical revelation in the church. So many people are sucked in already, and the danger it represents cannot be underestimated. I just had my grandmother’s (female) co-pastor tell me this past weekend that they consider their extrabiblical revelation to be equal to Scripture in relevance, importance, and truth. EQUAL! And even more frighteningly, no one batted an eye when she said this.
May the Lord help us.

Terry Rayburn: I’m very serious about the Trojan Horse aspect of this extra-biblical revelation thing, but with 400,000,000 (and growing) Charismatics around the world, one can tend to get as immune to it as to American Socialism, to use a political analogy, until one is tempted to say, “Oh, well, whaddya gonna do?” 
And the Horse is in — heavy-duty.

We have a problem.  The Charismatic movement has transformed itself over the past 35 years from a fringe, sect-like one to a global entity.  We are driven by sensation-seeking.  Who cares about doctrine — Charismatics don’t really care about that or Scripture.  It’s not sensational enough.

When doctrine teaches us about the sufficiency of Scripture, shouldn’t we be happy enough?  When we contemplate the sufficiency of Jesus’s one-time sacrifice on the Cross, shouldn’t we be happy enough?  When we have the assurance of eternal life with Him, shouldn’t we be happy enough?  What more could we want?

More on this tomorrow.

Further reading:

‘Tersely put: “Continuationism” self-refuting’ – Pyromaniacs

‘You’re probably a Cessationist, too’ – PyroManiac

‘Continuationism and Credulity, East and West’ – Pyromaniacs

‘Cessationism again’ – Pyromaniacs

Richard Foster is one of today’s leaders of spiritual formation.  Much has been written about the various forms of ‘Christian’ meditation, which have been sweeping America over the past several years.

From small acorns do mighty oaks grow.  Who would have imagined that a small non-profit started in 1988 and called Renovaré would have shaken so many Protestant denominations to their foundations?

Richard Foster is a Quaker — a member of the Religious Society of Friends — who put Renovaré and spiritual formation into play.  He earned his Bachelor’s degree at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon, and his Doctorate of Pastoral Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary.

George Fox’s spirituality

First, a word about George Fox and the Quakers.  If Fox were a young man today, he no doubt would have been a follower of Foster’s and an adherent of spiritual formation.  Fox lived between 1624 and 1691 — a tumultuous time in England.  When Fox came of age, Oliver Cromwell had beheaded Charles I,  then the Interregnum took place, the English Civil War followed and Charles II ushered in the Restoration in 1660.  To say that tensions were running high during Fox’s life would be an understatement.

Fox grew up with Puritan preachers.  As such, he was well versed in the King James Bible.  But, like many Calvinist renegades throughout the past few centuries (e.g. Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses) the absolute doctrines of Calvinism upset him, particularly predestination.

Pastor Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries took a closer look at Fox’s mindset.  He read A History of Christianity and discovered (quote below is from the book, emphases are Silva’s):

For four years he suffered severe spiritual depression induced by the spectacle of human suffering,…and by the doctrine of predestination which he heard expounded from Puritan pulpits. By temperament a mystic, he was eager for direct and unhindered access to God

Eventually (1647) the light broke. He came to feel Christ could speak to “his condition,”… He believed that God is love and truth and that it is possible for all men so to open their lives to Him… [Fox] would follow and have others follow the Inner Light” (Vol. II, p. 822, emphasis mine).

What this meant was that Fox ended up rejecting sola Scriptura.  Sound familiar?  And so it goes today in the emergent church and in an increasing number of evangelical churches.

Quaker belief

Quakers believe that this Inner Light is present in everyone.  You can even see that reflected in the comments on the forum on  They don’t quote a lot of Scripture verses but rely on more secular or generically spiritual sayings or poems.  Some meetinghouses are more politically than religiously oriented.  There also appear to be three strands of Quaker practice — including an evangelical one.  Forum participant John writes:

Some examples:

Liberal Quaker – non-Christ centered … generally politically liberal, theologically liberal.

Evangelical Quaker – Christ centered … generally politically mixed, running from liberal to conservative, theologically conservative.

Conservative Quaker – Christ centered … politically liberal on some issues (i.e. peace and non-violence), and politically conservative on others (limited government), theologically very conservative.

‘Are Quakers Protestant?’ tells us (emphases mine below):

It is quite clear from reading the works of early Friends that they did not identify with the Protestant movement. They considered the Protestant churches of their day, as well as the Roman Catholics, to be apostate. They felt that Protestants had lopped off some of the false branches of Catholicism, but did not challenge the root of apostasy. Insofar as Catholicism and Protestantism were different, early Friends would often in discourse on a topic point out what they felt were the incorrect views of Catholics and the separate incorrect views of the Protestants on the issue.

The early Friends considered themselves “primitive Christianity revived” – restoring true Christianity from the apostasy which started very early. They were not interested in reforming an existing church, but rather freshly expressing the truth of a Christianity before any institutional church took strong hold.

There were a number of differences early Friends had with Protestants of their day. Some of the key differences were:

    • The Protestants replaced the authority of the church with the authority of the Bible. Friends, while accepting the validity of the scriptures and believing in the importance of the faith community, gave first place to the Spirit of Christ. Pointing to the prologue of the Gospel of John, they viewed Christ, not the Bible, as the Word of God. The scripture was secondary, a declaration of the fountain rather than the fountain itself. (See also Friends (Quakers) and the Bible.)
    • The Protestants replaced liturgy with a sermon as the center of worship. Friends center worship in the divine presence. Even though Friends disdain outward liturgy, in some sense Quaker worship may be closer to Catholic than Protestant in nature. Both Catholics and Quakers believe in the actual presence of Christ in worship, for Catholics centered in the host and for Quakers spiritually. (See also Friends (Quaker) Worship.)
    • The Protestants were continually disturbed by an inner sense of guilt and original sin, and often felt they were choosing between sins. Quakers balanced the concept of original sin with the idea that redemption and regeneration could actually free humans from sin.


much of Society of Friends has become more mainstream and tends to identify with some of the movements among Protestants. At the same time, some of the key Quaker understandings have become increasingly accepted among many Protestants in the last century. The pentecostal and charismatic movements, which have become a very large part of the Protestantism and have also impacted Catholicism, have some similarities with the early Quaker movement.

Shades of universalism

Ken Silva read more about George Fox’s experience in ‘the well-respected Handbook Of Denominations In The United States (HoD) from Mead and Hill’ (emphases below are Silva’s):

After failing to find satisfactory truth and peace in the churches of his time, Fox discovered what he sought in a direct personal relationship with Christ:

“When all my hopes in [churches] were gone… I heard a voice which said, ‘That is the Inner Voice, or Inner Light, based upon the description of John 1:9: ‘the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. (KJV)’ ”

“This voice,” Fox maintained, “is available to all and has nothing to do with the ceremonies, rituals, or creeds over which Christians have fought. Every heart is God’s altar and shrine.” (140,141, emphasis mine).

Let’s be honest.  If you were to ask any number of people about a) having a direct personal relationship with Christ or b) if everyone is part divine or can come equally to God, you’d receive a surprisingly positive response to both.  The question then is — are these in accordance with the Bible?  No, they are not.

Silva warns us (emphases mine):

this false idea of an inner light, or a “divine spark,” is a very key issue to grasp before one can come to understand the root of the flawed semi-pelagian “gospel” preached by much of mainstream evangelicalism within which Foster has now become a major player. I cover this spiritually fatal idea of “a spark of the divine” allegedly inside all of mankind further in The Emergent “One” and Understanding the New Spirituality: God Indwells Mankind.

So in closing this for now I tell you in the Lord that this musing is actually classic Gnostic mysticism, which itself has already been condemned within the pages of the New Testament. Particularly in the Book of Colossians as well as in 1 John we find the Apostles dealing with Gnosticism. And again concerning all of this messed mysticism the Lord warns us through His chosen vessel Peter — In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up (2 Peter 2:3).

Foster’s Celebration of Discipline

Foster’s most notable work is his 1978 book, Celebration of Discipline, wherein he explores mystical and Quaker practices. Christianity Today named it as one of the top 10 of the 20th century.  Pastor Gary Gilley of Southern View Chapel observes (emphases mine):

Celebration of Discipline alone, not even referencing Foster’s other writings and teachings and ministries, is a virtual encyclopedia of theological error. We would be hard pressed to find in one so-called evangelical volume such a composite of false teaching. These include faulty views on the subjective leading of God (pp. 10, 16-17, 18, 50, 95, 98, 108-109, 128, 139-140, 149-150, 162, 167, 182); approval of New Age teachers (see Thomas Merton below); occultic use of imagination (pp. 25-26, 40-43, 163, 198); open theism (p. 35); misunderstanding of the will of God in prayer (p. 37); promotion of visions, revelations and charismatic gifts (pp. 108, 165, 168-169, 171, 193); endorsement of rosary and prayer wheel use (p. 64); misunderstanding of the Old Testament Law for today (pp. 82, 87); mystical journaling (p. 108); embracing pop-psychology (pp. 113-120); promoting Roman Catholic practices such as use of “spiritual directors,” confession and penance (pp. 146-150, 156, 185); and affirming of aberrant charismatic practices (pp. 158-174, 198).

Gilley adds:

… the dust jacket of this edition assures us “that it is only by and through these practices that the true path to spiritual growth can be found” … If spiritual growth is dependent upon the spiritual disciplines described in Foster’s book, should not we have expected to find this truth in the Scriptures? Why did God reveal them, not to the apostles but to apostate Roman Catholic mystics, and then to Richard Foster as he studied the mystics and used occultic techniques of meditation? We need to tread very carefully through this spiritual minefield. If this is in fact one of the ten best books of the twentieth century, I am not too anxious to read the other nine.

He concludes:

No one is calling for a purely intellectualized faith devoid of practice and experience. What those who draw their cue from Scripture and not mystics are calling for is a Christian faith, experience and practice that is rational, intellectual, makes sense, and most importantly is solidly grounded on the Word of God. Foster and company have taken many far afield in pursuit of mystical experiences that lead to a pseudo-Christianity that has the appearance of spirituality but not the substance.


The verb is Latin for ‘to renew’.  Since Foster founded this organisation in 1988, it has expanded around the world.

After the success of Celebration of Discipline, Foster received many public speaking invitations.  Audiences, particularly in the evangelical world, were highly receptive to the book’s subject matter and wished to know more.  In 1986, Foster withdrew from active ministry to pursue a means for teaching people how to live the disciplines the book explores.  He launched Renovaré two years later.

The non-profit organisation has taken on an ecumenical membership from a variety of Protestant denominations as well as from the Roman Catholic Church.  In fact, it is now headed by an Anglican Franciscan, Christopher Webb.  Foster remains a member of Renovaré’s board and its ministry team.

Phil Johnson of Pyromaniacs and John MacArthur’s Grace to You Ministries shared his own impressions of Foster with Ken Silva (emphases mine):

I met Foster almost 25 years ago when we were both slated to teach seminars at a couple of writers’ conferences. At the time, he was teaching at Friends University in Wichita, which is a small college founded by Quakers and happens to be where my Mom got her degree in the early 1960s. So we had some things in common and spent quite a bit of time talking. He is a capable writer and a very likable person.

But in my opinion, he is not an evangelical. He does not seem to have any clear understanding of the gospel or the atonement. That’s why his emphasis is all about “spirituality” and “spiritual disciplines” and various things the worshiper must do, with virtually no emphasis on what Christ has done for sinners. I’ve read several of Foster’s books and have never even seen him mention the cross as a propitiation for sins.

Moreover, he blends all kinds of works-based approaches to spirituality, which he borrows from diverse “Christian” traditions and even from other religions’ mystical and superstitious practices. In my estimation, all of that puts him far outside the pale of orthodoxy. Although he occasionally makes quotable remarks and valid observations, he is by no means a trustworthy teacher.

Nonetheless, Foster’s disciplines are pervasive.

From Calvinists to the Nazarenes

Silva researched Foster’s effect on various churches and found that a new generation of Calvinists were on board.

In 2009, John Piper interviewed Matt Chandler of The Village Church, who gave Piper his impressions of being ‘a pastor, a Calvinist and a Complementarian’.  Silva found it ‘odd’ that

in a search for Richard Foster in the Recommended Books of The Village Church, “that have challenged and helped us as a staff in our faith and in our ministry work”, we find his books Celebration of Discipline, Streams of Living Water, and The Challenge of the Disciplined Life

And so I have to wonder: Why would a Calvinist pastor and his staff be recommending to anyone these books by a highly ecumenical Quaker mystic whose whole sorry shtick is reintroducing the unsuspecting to the apostate Sola Scriptura-denying and spurious spirituality of the Counter Reformation within the medieval Roman Catholic Church?

Mark Driscoll, controversial pastor of the Mars Hill Fellowship in Seattle, also advocates spiritual disciplines and contemplative practices.  Lighthouse Trails Research discovered (emphases mine):

In an article written by Driscoll himself, ironically titled Obedience, Driscoll tells readers to turn to Richard Foster and contemplative Gary Thomas. Driscoll states:

If you would like to study the spiritual disciplines in greater detail … helpful are Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster, and Sacred Pathways, by Gary Thomas.


Presently, on Driscoll’s website, The Resurgence … is an article titled “How to Practice Meditative Prayer.” The article is written by an Acts 29 (Driscoll’s network of churches) pastor, Winfield Bevins. A nearly identical article on Driscoll’s site, also by Bevins, is titled Meditative Prayer: Filling the Mind. Both articles show a drawing of a human brain. In this latter article, Bevins recognizes contemplative mystic pioneer Richard Foster:

What do we mean by meditative prayer? Is there such a thing as Christian meditation? Isn’t meditation non-Christian? According to Richard Foster, “Eastern meditation is an attempt to empty the mind. Christian meditation is an attempt to fill the mind” (Celebration of Discipline). Rather than emptying the mind we fill it with God’s word. We must not neglect a vital part of our Judeo-Christian heritage simply because other traditions use a form of meditation.

Meanwhile, Manny Silva at Reformed Nazarene does an excellent job in exposing false teachers to members of the Church of the Nazarene.

On November 14, 2010, he blogged about the possibility of Nazarene youth groups being influenced by Renovaré.  He writes about two Christian youth ministries already working with young adult Nazarene members — Barefoot and YouthFront — which wish to partner with Renovaré (emphases mine):

Mike King is the President of YouthFront, and …  Here is what he wrote:

“Back from five days in the Denver area.  The first couple of days Chris Folmsbee and I met with the leadership of Renovare about partnership possibilities between Barefoot, Renovare and Youthfront.  We had great and synergistic conversations.  The Renovare team is awesome and I look forward to working with them closer.  I think wonderful things will be coming from our ongoing dialogue and planning.  Stay tuned …” (Mike King’s blog)

…  Mike King … just recently received a Master’s Degree from Nazarene Theological Seminary, although I don’t know if he is actually a Nazarene.  YouthFront is a national youth ministry training organization based in Kansas City, and is known for promoting spiritual formation.  YouthFront has already partnered with NTS in at least one endeavor, as indicated in this NTS webpage ad from 2008 offering a youth spirituality course.  This is not a surprise for me anymore, but rather a painful expectation.

Chris Folmsbee is the director of Barefoot Ministries, a non-profit youth ministry training and publishing company located in Kansas City.  According to Chris’s website, “Barefoot exists to help youth workers guide students into Christian formation for the mission of God.”  I have written several articles on Barefoot ministries, and it is no secret that I and many other Nazarenes believe that this organization for youth is leading many youth down the wide path of spiritual destruction, not spiritual formation!

And the third part of this alliance is Renovare, an organization founded by Richard Foster, perhaps the most influential person today in leading many evangelicals directly to and over the cliffs, right into the abyss of spiritual formation (certainly a more palatable and innocent-sounding phrase than contemplative spirituality, or “Christianized transcendental meditation”, or maybe “occultic prayer practices.”  I have also documented much of Richard Foster’s unbiblical practices and ideology, and it is maddening that he has such an influence in a denomination that preaches holiness and faithfulness to God’s written word, and long ago ironically moved away from experiential-based spirituality in rejecting the hyper-charismatic movement.

Why Christians are unhappy

Manny Silva reminds Nazarenes what experimentation in religious practices can do not only to individuals but to a denomination as a whole (same link as above):

… we seem to be continuing down this road, making more and more alliances with organizations that have a veneer of truth. And so I ask again, since there is some truth there, does that make it okay to join with them?  Is there any more doubt as to where our denomination is heading, my friends?  Are we fooling ourselves and thinking that these are just minor aberrations in the whole scheme of things?

What does it say to you, then, that NTS, our main seminary for training pastors for the future, is clearly holding hands with these groups, and promoting them? Remember NTS’s promotion of the Spiritual Formation Retreat just before General Assembly?  Remember the Prayer Room at General Assembly with the Richard Foster book?  Or the Richard Foster/Renovare event at Point Loma Nazarene University? Or Trevecca Nazarene University’s prayer labyrinth? Remember the promotion of contemplative practices on the NTS website, for pre-teens?  ..Either our leadership is totally in the dark about these (and many more that I have not mentioned), or they know of it, and are saying nothing specific to the questions many have put to them.

Michael Horton is the J. Gresham Machen professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California (Escondido, California), host of the White Horse Inn, national radio broadcast, and editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine.  In ‘What’s Wrong and Right about the Imitation of Christ’, he offers these observations of contemplative Christianity (emphases mine):

It would be a travesty simply to lump together medieval mysticism, the Anabaptist tradition, Quakers, Pietism, and Protestant liberalism. Nevertheless, there is a common thread running through these diverse movements-a theology of works-righteousness that emphasizes:

    • Christ’s example over his unique and sufficient achievement;
    • The inner experience and piety of believers over the external work and Word of Christ;
    • Our moral transformation over the Spirit’s application of redemption;
    • Private soul formation over the public ministry of the means of grace.

When we reverse the priority of these emphases, however, we experience more profoundly the delight of our inheritance, grow in our faith and gratitude toward God and our love toward our neighbors, are constantly renewed inwardly, and take from our public assembly enough morsels to feed on in our family and personal prayers and meditations throughout the week.

In the same article, he quotes Lutheran theologian Gerhard Forde (emphases mine):

In our modern age, influenced by Pietism and the Enlightenment, our thinking is shaped by what is subjective, by the life of faith, by our inner disposition and motivation, by our inward impulses and the way they are shaped. When we think and live along these lines, sanctification is a matter of personal and individual development and orientation. It is true that we also find this approach in Luther. No one emphasized more sharply than he did our personal responsibility….But this approach is secondary. ‘The Word of God always comes first. After it follows faith; after faith, love; then love does every good work, for…it is the fulfilling of the law.’

Let’s leave the final word to Martin Luther, as recorded in Tabletalk (emphases mine):

Yet all these seeming holy actions of devotion, which the wit and wisdom of man holds to be angelical sanctity, are nothing else but works of the flesh. All manner of religion, where people serve God without his Word and command, is simply idolatry, and the more holy and spiritual such a religion seems, the more hurtful and venomous it is; for it leads people away from the faith of Christ, and makes them rely and depend upon their own strength, works, and righteousness. In like manner, all kinds of orders of monks, fasts, prayers, hairy shirts, the austerities of the Capuchins, who in popedome are held to be the most holy of all, are mere works of the flesh; for the monks hold they are holy, and shall be saved, not through Christ, whom they view as a severe and angry judge, but through the rules of their order.

Is the same true of our contemplative friends among the laity?  Please exercise caution in your Christian practices.  Is what you are doing in the Bible, particularly the New Testament? If not, avoid it. Rely not on Christian bookstores, errant pastors or sensation-seeking friends.  Instead, be Berean.

End of series

A lot of younger Christians really enjoy Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll.  If I were their age, I probably would, too, especially as I’d have absorbed a lot of postmodern influences by then.

There is no doubt that Driscoll has had tremendous success with Mars Hill Church and his Acts29 (A29) Network.  This really isn’t to lambast him as much as it is to question how much Christians should engage with their culture when evangelising.

You know, I’ve never prayed so much as when I started this blog.  And, I’m praying every day about what I write here.  So, I would imagine that a pastor must pray even more when he puts together a sermon or writes a book.  I’m constantly editing my posts and writing them in advance so that I have time to do a rethink if necessary.  And I’m relying a lot more on the Bible than I’d ever have dreamt possible.  Therefore, I would think that a pastor worth his salt would do the same.

So, I’m mystified by a pastor whose approach seems to satisfy ‘itching ears’ by focusing on sex and scatology from the pulpit.  Porn addiction is quite common among Christian men, and it never ceases to amaze me at how many upstanding church members confess on various blogs to ‘struggling with’ it.  Younger men are also preoccupied with sex, especially if they live independent lives away from home.  Yes, it’s a normal, natural urge, but it has to be controlled.

So, those ‘converted’ through hearing Driscoll’s sex talks in church, which children are prohibited from attending (thank goodness), are hearing part of a Gospel message laced with earthiness.  Many Christians find this approach ‘cool’ and ‘relevant’.  Yet, the Bible asks us to put away thoughts and urges that can lead to sin. 

In another sermon, Driscoll discussed Jesus’s bodily functions. How is Christ exalted with such a message? Would Driscoll have spoken those words if Jesus were sitting in front of him?  Would he have said that if St Paul had been in attendance?

Here are a few Bible verses about godly living with regard to the spoken word:

Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.  — Proverbs 4:24

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.   — Colossians 3:5-10

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. — James 1:26

7 in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, 8 sound in speech which is beyond approach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.  — Titus 2:7-8 

This one specifically applies to pastors:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. — James 3:1

Success in Christianity has long been evidenced by large, ever-growing numbers of people attending church services.  Mars Hill is certainly one of those.  Some pastors seek to imitate this model.  But what is being preached from the pulpit?  It is much easier for us to hear soothing messages that affirm our needs — sex, prosperity, good living — than it is to hear a sermon asking us to ‘enter through the narrow gate’.  If Christianity is about ‘hey, everybody’s saved’, then there’s no need worry about sin.  We can consign the Bible to the dustbin, and we can live the kind of life we want. 

Now, I realise that Driscoll’s sermons preach a modern sort of Calvinism.  And it’s precisely this practice of blending a strict Christian teaching with an appeal to base urges that should encourage us to exercise discernment with this approach. 

DefendingContending posted on discernment with respect to Driscoll recently; the comments are telling.   

Freedom for Captives uses 1 Timothy 3:1-10 in evaluating whether Driscoll is truly qualified to pastor.  It also examines Driscoll’s behaviour as a pastor.

John MacArthur says this is nothing new, sadly.

The Christian Worldview says of Driscoll (emphasis mine):

He finds humor in Jacob, Aaron, Moses, Job, Jeremiah, and Noah. For example, he undermines the seriousness of the messages of Jeremiah, a prophet of God, by describing him as someone “who cries like a newly crowned beauty queen all the time.” He laughs at Noah for getting drunk and ending up naked in his tent, and then compares him to “some redneck on vacation.” Why would Driscoll find amusement or pleasure in seeing Noah’s dignity reduced or undermined? …

Similarly, why would Driscoll compare a story in Scripture to a Monty Python skit and even elaborate on what he describes as the “scatological humor” or “poopy comedy” he sees in Ezekiel 4?

In his series on humor, the New Testament also gets a Driscoll face lift. Without shame, he turns the issue of circumcision found in Galatians 5 into a crude “cut off your pickle joke.”

Also, unlike all the biblical scholars who have gone before Mark Driscoll, he comes up with another name than the one given in Scripture to describe the Holy Spirit. In his book Confessions of a Reformission Rev, he thanks “God the Ghost” for helping him write his book. In another part of the book, Driscoll just shortens it to “Ghost.”

For those who would be alarmed by this cavalier handling of God and His Word, Mark also has an arrogant, cocky response. He says, “…religious people are too serious…..judgmental….they’re such a joke.”

To the contrary, as believers we are called to fervently contend for the faith, which includes protecting and preserving the integrity of God’s Word. Finding amusement and joking with Scripture as acceptable has a way of making sober-minded people begin to treat matters less seriously …

Hence, the groundwork has now been laid for others to come along presenting their own humorous ideas of other passages of scripture. Once this door is allowed to be opened, there is no end in sight.

We all would do well to think a bit more about what we’re hearing and reading and the way those ‘Scriptural’ messages are being delivered.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. — Romans 12:2      

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