Friday, August 29, 2008
Emergent and Mark Driscoll
One of the fascinating parts of The New Christians by Tony Jones has been the portrayal of the journey of Mark Driscoll from being one of the founding members of the Emergent group to being D.A. Carson in a hoodie and jeans.
Now I guess there is no love lost between Tony Jones and Mark Driscoll, and I wonder if Jones could have been a little more gracious in what he writes about Driscoll, but what do I know.
Driscoll was, Jones writes, one of a dozen young leaders who gathered near Colorado Springs in1997 to discuss ministry to Generation Xers. Part way through the weekend, Brad Cecil gave an impromptu presentation about the postmodern turn (This presentation has now been turned into a powerpoint presentation). Driscoll was apparently one of the ones who "got it", and began to establish who else in the gathered group "got it". They began to search the country for other young leaders who "got it".
Tony Jones apparently joined the group about a year later. He describes his initial meeting with them, and here is where things seem to start to sour with Mark Driscoll. At one point in the conversation, Jones came out with the statement "The Bible is propaganda!". The way he describes it, it just popped out of his mouth, much to his own surprise. Now what he meant was that the propaganda "has a point and a purpose", that "It doesn't claim to be objective. It's trying to convince someone of something. It's trying to get people to join a cause, to join a movement." and that's what the Bible is. This is pretty obvious really but 'propaganda' is of course a provocative way of putting it as it is usually associated with deceitful methods used by nasty regimes. Jones records the response -
'Particularly torqued at my insouciance was Mark Driscoll, the fireplug sitting to Brad's left. The guy has an uncommonly sharp mind - and a tongue to match. (The story of his conversion, the rapid growth in membership at his church, and his subsequent disavowal of all things emergent is well documented in his own books.) Mark definitely did not appreciate my take on the sacred text of Christianity, and he let that be known.' (p45)
Jones describes the development of the group and Driscoll pops up again a few pages later -
'Meanwhile, things with Mark Driscoll had become uncomfortable. Sitting on a panel at a Seattle event in 1999, he vehemently stated that women should not be pastors. Everyone else in the room was dumbfounded, since he was breaking an assumed consensus in the group. He was also becoming known as the "foul-mouthed preacher" (he was apparently the "Cussing pastor" in Don Miller's Blue Like Jazz) When Brad Cecil invited Mark to guest preach at Axxes Church in Arlington, he explained to Mark that unlike Seattle, swearing from the pulpit in Texas just wouldn't fly, and he asked Mark to please keep his language clean. Mark used the F-word in the first sentance.
The young emergents were gaining a reputation as arrogant, foul-mouthed, and angry young preachers, very much as a result of Driscoll's outbursts. This resulted in a couple of meetings and conference calls, an attempt to quell his vituperations. But nothing worked. Driscoll's increasingly conservative theology and his unrepentant attitude led to an eventual distancing from the rest of the group. By 2003, he was publicly denouncing his former fellows.' (p48)
So here it sounds like Driscoll was ousted from the group for his increasingly conservative views (especially on women) and because of his potty mouth. I haven't read Driscoll's version of events, but I hear it is more like he distanced himself from Emergent for their increasingly "unorthodox" views. Which version is true? Both of course. Let's not be so naive to think we can have one version of The Truth :)
The last mention of Driscoll in 'The New Christians' is connected to the story of The Church of the Apostles in Seattle. Wondering how long COTA can be sustained, Jones writes -
'These are people who have obviously witnessed the tearing apart of many churches. And what's more, they live in the shadow of an eight-hundred-pound gorilla: Mars Hill Fellowship, an emerging church pastored by the self-described "Bible-thumping fundamentalist" Mark Driscoll. Mark and Mars Hill come up in almost every conversation I have at COTA. Driscoll himself has distanced himself from "emergent" and claimed the title "emerging" for Mars Hill. He gets a lot of press, has a column in the Seattle newspaper, and has a rising profile nationwide. But the very attributes of emergent Christianity - humility regarding interpretation, nonpropositional appreciation for truth - Driscoll rejects outright. He's not-so-subtedly criticized Karen (Ward) for replacing the proclamation of doctrine with finger painting. With Driscoll's three-thousand-member megachurch claiming "emerging" status, the Cotans understandable wonder about the future of the emergent tribe.' (p207)
I'm not sure what to make of this. I can understand Jones standing up for a small emergent community in the shadow of a megachurch. This is a common problem. But does it not sound a little bit like sour grapes and well, a bit personal. Should Jones rise above this in grace and humility? (Easy for me to say, I haven't been publicly denounced by Driscoll) (yet :) )