Driscoll’s Dance with the NY Times

Molly Worthen’s piece “Who Would Jesus Smack Down” in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine highlights Mark Driscoll and his ministry as pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. No systematic comments, but a few reflections:

  • Invictus makes its predictable and appropriate appearance in the same stroke of the pen as one of several caricatures of Calvinism: “Yet [Driscoll’s] message seems radically unfashionable, even un-American: you are not captain of your soul or master of your fate but a depraved worm whose hard work and good deeds will get you nowhere, because God marked you for heaven or condemned you to hell before the beginning of time.”
  • Worthen’s words accompanying her Invictus reference may give some additional insight into an answer to the second question in that earlier post concerning why the church doesn’t look very different from the world. To really live as if one is not the master of one’s fate and the captain of one’s soul is downright un-American, and the “soul captaincy” embodied in American political and social culture is a force difficult to escape, even in the church.
  • Many a pastor “planting” a new congregation has learned hard lessons from allowing the vision and mission of the fledgling congregation be diluted by tangential and competing concerns. Yet, in Driscoll and Mars Hill we may see some aspects of how protestant evangelicalism’s broken view of the church (i.e., ecclesiology) makes it harder to escape the cult of personality. I have no way to know the form, content, or spirit of the dissension identified in the last part of the article, but the depiction of opposition from his own leadership as “‘sinning through questioning'” and the alleged practice of shunning recommend church polity and discipline that handle dissension and produce direction from a posture of expectant dependence on God and submission to one another out of reverence for Christ. The nature of the human heart is such that this becomes even more important when what you are doing seems to be successful.
  • Some have said that earthly, human attention to (and therefore identification of) who is in and who is out, the elect and the non-elect, is an inescapable, if not essential, part of Calvinism. If so, it is to the system’s detriment. In any event, the viewing world seems preoccupied with the doctrines of election and predestination, and seems to treat them as far less mysterious than did Calvin himself.
  • Finally, and in the category of intuition, irrelevance as a divine vocation still appears to me an essential feature of the pastoral calling. At least in part, this is because relevance and notoriety by nature divide person and persona, leaving observers in the watching world (with access to little more than personality) insufficient relationship with the pastor to accurately read his person, and expanding followers’ opportunities to follow pastoral “personality” rather than the person of Christ modeled through pastoral transparency. Real harm flowing from such circumstances may not reflect the person of the pastor, and certainly would not reflect his desire. Worthen’s closing is chilling, and almost certainly not what Driscoll has in mind: “At one suburban campus that I visited, a huge yellow cross dominated center stage – until the projection screen unfurled and Driscoll’s face blocked the cross from view. Driscoll’s New Calvinism underscores a curious face: the doctrine of total human depravity has always had a funny way of emboldening, rather than humbling its adherents.” Christ is obscured by the opacity of the once-transparent pastor at the peril of the only truly good news for the world.
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