The NYT gets up to speed on the Randy “Macho Man” Savage of American Fundamentalism


And who else could that be other than Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Seattle. Here are some of the tastier bits:

Nowhere is the connection between Driscoll’s hypermasculinity and his Calvinist theology clearer than in his refusal to tolerate opposition at Mars Hill. The Reformed tradition’s resistance to compromise and emphasis on the purity of the worshipping community has always contained the seeds of authoritarianism: John Calvin had heretics burned at the stake and made a man who casually criticized him at a dinner party march through the streets of Geneva, kneeling at every intersection to beg forgiveness. Mars Hill is not 16th-century Geneva, but Driscoll has little patience for dissent. In 2007, two elders protested a plan to reorganize the church that, according to critics, consolidated power in the hands of Driscoll and his closest aides. Driscoll told the congregation that he asked advice on how to handle stubborn subordinates from a “mixed martial artist and Ultimate Fighter, good guy” who attends Mars Hill. “His answer was brilliant,” Driscoll reported. “He said, ‘I break their nose.’ ” 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. John Calvin couldn’t have said it better himself.


Mars Hill — with its conservative social teachings embedded in guitar solos and drum riffs, its megachurch presence in the heart of bohemian skepticism — thrives on paradox. Critics on the left and right alike predict that this delicate balance of opposites cannot last. Some are skeptical of a church so bent on staying perpetually “hip”: members have only recently begun to marry and have children, but surely those children will grow up, grow too cool for their cool church and rebel. Others say that Driscoll’s ego and taste for controversy will be Mars Hill’s Achilles’ heel. Lately he has made a concerted effort to tone down his language, and he insists that he has delegated much authority, but the heart of his message has not changed. Driscoll is still the one who gazes down upon Mars Hill’s seven congregations most Sundays, his sermons broadcast from the main campus to jumbo-size projection screens around the city. 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 fact: the doctrine of total human depravity has always had a funny way of emboldening, rather than humbling, its adherents.

You can read the whole article here.

The narcissism of Driscoll drips off the page. “They sin through their questioning.”? Ugh. But I suppose this attitude is common place in the Calvanist crowd, you know….. being one of the chosen few and all. The funny thing is is that I’ve never met a Calvanist that doesn’t claim they’ve been “elected” to “savlation.” I’ve always found that to be a fascinating coincidence.

13 thoughts on “The NYT gets up to speed on the Randy “Macho Man” Savage of American Fundamentalism

  1. It’s so interesting to hear so many people question Driscoll’s methods and madness. For the longest time, I thought that he was the realest of real and the coolest of cool. I heard a lot of “Have you been to Mars Hill” and “Did you hear what Mark Driscoll said about …”. I talked with Bamford about this and now I hear you saying the same thing. Excellent. I’m not a freak after all!

  2. Zach, thanks for this post. I’m a Calvinist who grew up in a Reformed home and do not track AT ALL with Driscoll. I just find him…mean; as in not very generous. But I also dont’ t track with everything you say here. In this post, I find myself feeling judged. I love this blog, track it all the time…I think you are really lumping a lot of Calvinists in with Driscoll! Please don’t!

    Calvin was far from perfect; I apologize for some of what he did. But I am also thankful for other things. A few days ago you had a quote about not separating the spiritual from the rest of life…it all belongs to him–one of the most significant teachings I learned growing up in a calvinist home. Can I suggest reading “Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport” by Richard Mouw; I think it will provide an alternative to Driscoll and his following! Anyways, the next time you come to Vancouver, let me take you out so I can show you an alternative Calvinism to what Driscoll is demonstrating (and Canadian beer ain’t bad, to boot).

  3. Sorry Matt. I think God elected me to disagree with the possibility of some being chosen over others to be saved . It’s not my doing, really. I give God all the glory for that one. 😉

    But seriously, I don’t think all Calvanists behave as Driscoll does, but I find a huge portion of the concept to be hilariously inadequate.

  4. I read that article this morning and it brought about a similar response in me. I’ve read Mark Driscoll’s stuff because I believe in listening to differing opinions (luckily I’m not Calvinist) but he always rubs me the wrong way because there is no room for him to be incorrect. It’s either his way or the highway. He doesn’t even allow for the possibility he might be wrong, at least it seems that way to me.

    Jesus, who if anyone could be proud it would be him, invited people into discussion and talked with people of differing opinions. Churches should be places where many ideas are discussed and presented in search of truth.

    It’s obvious that Mark is scratching something that itches in his area but something about him and his theology makes me uncomfortable.

  5. hey zach, first of all thanks for the blog.. enjoy the posts, variety, humor, quotation, and so on…

    not there is much more that has not already been said about markie-mark… but it has always interested me that adamant calvinists semi-always justify through entitlement and it is alarming that he is always on the front page of things and matt i would agree not all reformed would claim him but he is leading a passionate front that is sorting out the teams like dodgeball in the gym (and you know mark wont pick anybody that he could beatup)… anyways it is almost more comedic than real, fiction than reporting

    new work coming out by NT Wright that should be good… apparently he revisions the scripture around the scriptural calvinists…

  6. honestly, i think it’s more about the simple fact that driscoll is a jerk than it is about him being a calvinist. from the things i’ve heard him say about himself both before and after jesus — and before and after calvinism — he’s just always been the way he is now.

    also, the most caring, compassionate, humble, honest, loving, practical, spot-on family i’ve ever had the pleasure to know were die-hard reformed calvinists from the christian reformed church. the asinine pride and arrogance that being “elect” can elicit in people was nowhere ever once present. and that’s not the only example i have of this.

    which is to say that anecdotal evidence about what is/isn’t good/bad about certain theological ideas can always be countered by anecdotal evidence from the other side. i’ve met some pretty shitty calvinists, and some great ones. similarly, some of the most arrogant, condescending assfaces i’ve ever met were liberal christians. and i’ve met some pretty good examples of jesus’ love from people in the same camp.

    my point is more that being an ass has less to do with your theological convictions and more to do with the fact that you’re an ass in general. within any christian tradition — liberal/conservative, protestant/catholic/orthodox, calvinist/arminian, complementarian/egalitarian, etc. — you will find jerks. and they usually tend to gravitate toward certain concepts and teachings in their tradition, warping them just enough to make sure their douchiness looks like piety.

    lastly, calling driscoll a fundamentalist is like calling dom crossan a moderate. conservative? yes. a jerk? yes. tactless? yes. a fundamentalist? no. maybe if you haven’t encountered genuine christian fundamentalism, you might mistake driscoll for a fundamentalist. but honestly, he has more in common with a liberal prop-8-supporting christian than a conservative fundamentalist independent baptist.

  7. Sean, I agree with you here. There are lots of Calvanists that are extremely nice people who I respect. And you’re right, Driscoll captures my interest more because of his behavior than his theological positions.

    But how is Driscoll NOT a fundamentalist? He’s basically a turn or burn, hellfire and brimstone preacher with cooler hair and clothes. Maybe, a la Tony Jones, it might be more fair to call him a “New Fundamentalist.” And I grew up in a conservative baptist church, so I think I can say with some certainty that I’ve encountered and marinated in American fundamentalism.

  8. i’m not doubting that you saw your fair share of ridiculous conservatism in your day. but in terms of practice and the engagement of culture, driscoll doesn’t have a lot in common with fundamentalism.

    it’s definitely fair to say he’s a ‘new fundamentalist’ or a neofundamentalist. all the piss and vinegar of fundamentalism, but with a little more intellect, the ability to cuss and cooler hair…although driscoll’s hair isn’t much cooler.

  9. I really liked what Sean had to say about it being less about Driscoll being a Calvinist and more that it is his general demeanor.

    HOWEVER…we do have to step back and see that different theological beliefs will embolden traits certain within ourselves that veer darker. With Calvinism and it’s propensity to espouse Doctrine first and foremost above action (right belief is central vs righ acting), it only solidifies tendenceies to believe you are right all of the time. Because Calvinism is most concerned with Doctrine and not quite as concerned with right practice, it inherently has built into it a certain unyielding nature. We all have a desire to be right…but Calvinism has something in it that tends to bring out the “I HAVEto be right” syndrome out of people. Other theological perspectives don’t have this bent as much.

    BUT…they do have their own bents. More liberal Christianity, which seems more concerned with right practice and less about the implications of their beliefs, can come across as wishy washy and seems a bit more like secular humanism.

    I think what we are asking people to do is to understand that our beliefs and our actions be held together, reverently, understanding how they are inseparable. One can’t work without the other. Somehow the fact that Driscoll is an ass dimishes what he believes. And vice versa. We must hold our belief and actions with a certain amount of graciousness and humility.

    I wonder if our real frustration is that the people who we think are getting it right so very rarely get the microphone that people like Driscoll and Pat Robertson get.

  10. i don’t know if i agree that calvinism espouses an attitude of right belief over right action any more than other traditions do. i don’t think it’s as much about calvinism’s core themes as it is about most conservative christians being consumed by an overly modernistic, american view of life and faith.

    i know that calvinism is usually associated with a conservative mindset (in terms of negative connotations), but it doesn’t have to be. you can be a liberal universalist calvinist just as easily as a conservative, sectarian calvinist.

    people with a more modernistic perspective are likely to value right belief over right action, and that transcends faith, too. it goes into all aspects of life.

    don’t forget, the concepts that coalesced into what became known as calvinism were formed in a pre-modern world.

    • so would a universalist calvanist just presume that all of humanity is included in the “elect”? i guess it depends on you use the word, it’s possible but doesn’t the word itself signify that one is elected over another. obama was elected over mccain, calvanists are elected over secular rock drummers, etc……

  11. right, it’s all about how you want to frame the issue. a reformed theologian like karl barth would say that jesus made humanity elect through his humanity. he “picked out” humanity and “said yes” to it. barth was always nebulous about universalism, but certainly seemed to lean toward it.

    but even in more conservative circles, the idea (in theory) isn’t that “i’m elect and you’re not.” it’s that god is all powerful, doing what he thinks is best for the world, and we can’t even guess to know what that is. granted, in application, it gets all whacked out by a lot of people. but again, it’s about how you want to frame it.

    also, not all reformed folks care to even make the distinction between elect and reprobate. much like the eastern orthodox, some might say that we know where salvation is, but we don’t know where it isn’t.

    just because some people want to frame debates in rigid, divisive terms doesn’t mean that we have to allow them to frame the debates for all of us. that’s what the reformed tradition should embody: the idea that the articles of the christian faith are never perfected, and that the conversation with the bible, with those before us, and with each other musts continue. that’s why i want to discuss our differences as much as our similarities. as odd as it sounds, sometimes our differences is where we find our deepest connections. as long as we aren’t just looking to pick a fight.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s