Why Mark Driscoll Is So Compelling

Anyone who reads my blog or follows me on twitter would know that I like to poke fun at Mark Driscoll, lead pastor of Mars Hill church in Seattle, WA. Before I get into why I think Driscoll is such a compelling figure for many Christians, let me say some good things about him. First, the dude is smart. There’s no question he’s a sharp guy. Secondly, he’s pretty damn funny. He’s certainly got a “dark humor” streak that often times lacks pastoral maturity but that doesn’t mean what he’s saying isn’t funny, even if he’s poking fun at people like me. Third, he’s an effective communicator which isn’t a stretch considering the fact that’s he’s both smart and funny. Ok, with the nice stuff out of the way it’s time to consider the reasons why Driscoll so attractive and repelling to many in the Christian world. Here’s my theory:

I start with the observation that Calvinism is a strange theological system. It may not seem strange to those who consider themselves Calvinists but if you ask Joe Blow on the street what he thinks about the notion of a god who creates billions of human beings knowing beforehand that they will suffer eternal torment in a place called hell because he chose not predestine their good fortune…..you’d probably get a blank stare. Now I get that Calvinism is trying make sense of the problem of evil and the Fall of mankind and so it goes on to frame a way in which it all goes down and I appreciate that, but on the face of it, it seems odd. Fair or unfair, it’s hard for people who don’t find themselves devoted to Calvinism to see how it doesn’t make God into a kind of controlling monster that loves all humanity but not enough to predestine them all for reconciliation.

While I’m sure Calvinists would object to my characterization of their beliefs, I’ve never heard a reply of theirs that made God seem like less of totally soveriegn being who allows a vast majority of his created beings to be tortured endlessly. Because of this peculiar view of the nature of God, I suspect there is a burden a Calvinist might bear. There is an uphill battle for any Calvinist attemtping justify this view of God to the outside world. Instead of carrying the full weight of this understanding of God, at times it might seem easier to skim over these harsh realities about God, just be “missional,” be nice and talk about God’s grace and sovereignty and conveniently leave out the part where God creates souls for the purpose of eternal pain and suffering. When I put myself in their shoes, I can relate to what that burden might feel like.

So imagine you’re a philosophically weary Calvinist, tired of tip-toeing around the one-two punch of God’s ultimate sovereignty and his limited atonement. In walks Mark Driscoll into your life and you see a guy who doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to the oddities Calvinism. Not only does he not beat around the bush but he doubles down on every Calvinistic eccentricity other teachers with the same view might conveniently skip over. He’s bold and he’s brazen and he’s exactly what a weary Calvinist might desperately be searching for. He’s a cold drink of water in the desert of philosophical exile. He’s the big brother that comes with you to school to confront the skeptical bully on the theological playground. If I were a Calvinist I’d be eternally grateful for what Driscoll does and I’d be the first in line to dismiss the criticism aimed his way as a result of all the crazy shit he says.

But the reality is I’m not a Calvinist. I simply can’t accept Calvinism as a theological concept because it points to a nature of god that I find unpraiseworthy, but that’s just me. With that said, Driscoll is a compelling figure to me because he’s the perfect embodiment of the pathologies of Calvinism. Certain statements he makes remind me of what some call an “overshare”. Other Calvinists voices might choose to avoid telling people that “God personally and objectively hates you!” even though that’s an accurate depiction of what their theology reflects. But not Driscoll. He doesn’t leave the crazy out. He doubles down with confidence and boldness. These kinds of extreme declarations from Driscoll represent a bubbling up to the surface the pathologies of Calvinism. With his declaration that “God hates some of you,” Driscoll is simultaneously relieving the burden of weary Calvinists and providing shining examples for critics to use as evidence that the underpinnings of Calvinism lead to dangerous and hurtful outcomes.


8 thoughts on “Why Mark Driscoll Is So Compelling

  1. If the the God of Calvinism is true, then in the words of Marilyn Manson, I wasn’t born with enough middle fingers to thrust into the air at this God. Of course, I don’t believe in the Calvinist God. But if it were the reality, God could punish me, make me bow, and send me to hell for eternity, but he could never, ever compel me to love and respect Him.

  2. Driscoll never fails to disgust. It’s frightening when people can justify such disturbing statement Biblically. It’s strange to me that he hasn’t stoned anyone to death yet….

    ALSO :: Did anyone else notice how much blinks…?

  3. I find it fascinating to watch his progression – I first read a book of his something like six years ago and he wasn’t crazy then. He wasn’t ultra-calvinistic then (as far as we know, he just wasn’t writing and speaking about it). I even went to his church in 2007 twice when passing through Seattle and it wasn’t totally crazy. In fact back then he had one of the cool churches in America – I think his reputation has done much to damage that image.

    My theory on Driscoll, then, is that all of the attention and popularity have puffed him up in a way – people came to him as an authority and thus he believed himself to be an all wise authority (much like how John Piper acts as though he’s qualified to answer any question about anything as if he’s got a PhD in that field). With that kind of bloated sense of self especially in relation to knowledge of God he speaks so strongly and convinced of his positions. I think Calvinism is just the natural (albeit slightly extreme) progression of everything happens for a reason flowery Christianity – once you start down the line you can eventually end up a hard-nosed Calvinist.

  4. I’m not a Driscoll fan, to say the least, but I agree with most of this. I think that Calvinism in and of itself is an extreme but non-distinct warmed over liberalism (emergent theology, Word of Faith) is not “palatable” either. I think the Stone-Campbell preachers had the right vision for the Church.

  5. It is so sad to see a preacher projecting his personal pain and suffering into a discussion about God. Those without the eyes to see and the ears to hear should not be given a venue to mislead. Teachings like this will lead many of the young and educated out of the church forever.

  6. Well said Pastor Shrader – the best succinct statement re the unspeakably vile nature of Calvinism, in all of its guises. I would argue that much of the “sin” and horribleness in the Western world is the creation of this benighted form of religion.

    Sin is the worst cancer in the universe. It is the worst sickness. It is the most horrible disease, quite literally a sickness unto death. Its implications cover the entirety of everyone’s life. The world is filled with its symptoms and reeks with its torments and potentials, coming from all directions, most of which people cannot even see.

    On the other hand there is the Grace converted feeling-heart

    The happening of Truth and thus The Beautiful Itself is not through the mind – it is at the heart. Truth is not a proposition argued over against other propositions. Truth is self-evident, because the heart authenticates it in the moment of reception.

    Truth is an embrace, just as love is. You do not get argued into love. It is self-evidently right.

    One responds to truth as one does to love, simply through recognizing it. It is not about argument, not about the domain of mind, or of opposites.

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