Mark Driscoll is not God

Trigger warning for the video in particular – emotional/psychological abuse.

Mark Driscoll is at it again, making pronouncements from on high about who’s going to be damned to hell.

There’s a lot that’s wrong here. He’s claiming yet again that a version of Christianity that teaches that the vast majority of the world will be tortured for eternity is “good news.” He continues to use manipulative and abusive tactics as tools of control. Many people who have been abused in one way or another by someone close to us will recognize “just because I’m yelling at you doesn’t mean I don’t love you” and “I’m yelling at you because I love you” as classic lines from abusers. It’s chilling. Once again he’s asserting his superior and exclusive access to truth and salvation over the rest of the world and everyone who disagrees with him.

As for his tears of gratitude – I’m sorry, I haven’t seen a crying act that transparent or unconvincing in a long time, and I have a toddler. I don’t believe for a second that he accepts that he’s just as deserving of God’s wrath as anyone else. Not when he’s just spent most of his time in this clip loudly damning all but a tiny portion of humanity to hell (does he realize how much of the world is Buddhist or Hindu? I don’t know that he cares).

But the point is so much bigger than Driscoll’s arrogance and bigotry. It’s important to debunk this dehumanizing theology and point out its dangers, and that’s a huge reason why I started blogging. But it’s also important to offer alternatives for people who feel trapped in a hostile and damaging faith, because they’ve been misled into believing that it’s the only way they can be good Christians, the only way God will accept them.

This is a lie. I know it can feel so true. But it’s a huge, audacious, breathaking lie.

Here’s the truth:

– Mark Driscoll is not God.
– Mark Driscoll has no idea who is going to heaven or hell, or even if any such places exist.
– If there is a God who decides our eternal fates, it’s not taking orders from Mark Driscoll. Whatever happens to us after we die has nothing whatsoever to do with Driscoll thinks, says, or does.

– Being a Christian doesn’t mean whatever Mark Driscoll says it means.
– Christianity is far, far bigger than reformed evangelicalism. Reformed evangelicalism is a tiny branch of Protestant Christianity and an even smaller fraction of all Christian traditions.
– The vast majority of Christians churches do not share reformed evangelical beliefs on hell or salvation.
A loving God is not going to punish everyone who “fails” to find – or find a home in – some random niche version of Christianity.

– It is not a sin to disagree with Mark Driscoll’s interpretation of the Bible.
– The Bible has very little to say about hell. What it does say has nothing to do with our image of hell and everything to do with ancient Jewish, Greek, and Roman beliefs about the afterlife.
– The Bible is a set of disparate documents created for many different purposes, produced in a wide variety of contexts, and written in ancient and difficult languages. It’s a complicated document that calls for careful, attentive reading. It can be read in many ways.

– No matter what Mark Driscoll says, there’s nothing incompatible about faith and “philosophical speculation” or “mental investigation.”
– It’s ok to have questions about faith and the Bible. It’s ok to ask those questions and to pursue rigorous, intellectually sound answers to those questions.
– People who reject scientific and historical inquiry as dangerous to faith and are opposed to or threatened by facts and research do not have strong faith. They have weak faith.

– No matter what Mark Driscoll says, there’s nothing wrong with kind, humane theology that upholds the dignity and worth of all people as sacred.
– There’s nothing sinful about believing in a God who loves everyone, without conditions or qualifiers.
– And there’s no reason to believe that belief in the Bible is incompatible with belief in such a God. Many, many Christians believe in a God who loves.

What about all of the verses within scripture that seem to imply a truly irresistible grace?John 17:2: For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.
Luke 2:10: But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
In John 1:9, the gospel’s author writes: The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
Romans 5:18: Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.
Romans 8:20, 21: For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
Acts 3:21: For he must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets….

And I could go on and on. But my point in listing those verses isn’t to argue theology, it’s only to point out that there IS indeed biblical support for Jesus-centered redemption that is bigger and more merciful and gracious than what most evangelical theologies proclaim.

Do we believe that Jesus is good news for all men?

Or do we believe that Jesus is good news for all men who ask him into his heart?

Or do we believe that Jesus is good news for all men who follow some sort of evangelical equation that proclaims (in an earthly sense) that he’s a follower of Jesus?

Who are we to put limitations around the words “all men” or “all people”…

I’ve said this before, but I think sometimes the “evangelical God” we boast about is quite small. Or at least… how we talk about him is small.

Of course, Mark could be right. The God that we boast about, that we love, that we worship could be ready and willing to send BILLIONS and BILLIONS of people to the flames of hell. All in the name of justice baby! But then why does God ask us to care for the sick, the weak, the hungry? Why does he tell us to love one another? Why does he care about the relationships we pursue and value? How can we boast about a God who values unborn life but is fully willing to send 11-year-olds from India to eternal torment?….

I believe in a God who makes things right. I believe in a God who will leave the 99 to find 1 lost soul. I believe in a God who is my shepherd. I believe in a God who manifested himself through Christ to bring redemption to the world. (Jesus Needs New PR)

– You don’t need abusive theology or an abusive God to be a Christian.
– You don’t need fear, hatred, contempt, or bigotry to be a Christian.
– It’s a lie that making people live in constant fear is an act of love. Even the Bible says so: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.”

Mark Driscoll is one person, with one interpretation of the Bible, one version of a huge, old, complicated, diverse religion. Taking his teachings as gospel is nothing more than making God in Driscoll’s image. Mark Driscoll is not God. Thank God for that.

38 Comments

  1. Wow. Excellent post.

    I’m thankful to God that I stumbled across the “Love Wins” debate a month or so ago. It’s opened my heart and mind to a whole new way of thinking about God, Jesus and love.

    • Hi Mark, thanks for the comment and welcome to the blog! I’m also glad to see different ideas about God being seriously discussed in the evangelical community. It’s taken stepping away from the church for me to see more clearly that what I was taught was the gospel, in non-negotiable terms, was just one very narrow interpretation out of many.

  2. i appreciate your post. i may have very different opinions than you do about this topic, but i think many would agree on the provacative style of Mark Driscoll.

    • Thanks for the comment and welcome to the blog :) I vehemently disagree with the idea that only a particular set of Christians are going to heaven, but it’s one thing to believe that, and another thing entirely to scream and yell categorical statements about who’s going to hell. He has not even the slightest bit of humility about it – basically making pronouncements as though he’s God. He’s not.

      • david cameron says:

        Whatever is the point of even discussing the bible when you don’t believe in the content of the bible, stating that something is the oldest book, means nothing. There is doctrine and then there are things held in an open hand. THere is only one “type” of Christians getting into heaven, those who accept Christ as there lord and savior who believe he shed his blood to cover their sins.. Driscoll has said as much time and time again. We help none Christians and the poor to show the grace of God in our lives. NO PERSON IS GOOD… we are all pathetic people who have no right to heaven. Saying that God would never send the majority of people to hell is silly. No person deserves salvation, especially me. Narrow is the way.
        Sorry for the poor grammar and spelling as this was typed on my phone. It seems like people want rainbows and butterflies for everyone. That is not the case, just look at Job.

        • Whether or not I believe the Bible is divinely inspired has no bearing its status as an incredibly important and influential text. I read it as such and have a vested interest in how others read it, too, because it affects me and countless other people, believers and otherwise.

          The burden of proof is on people who believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God. Prove it. What makes it more holy than any other book that humans have claimed speaks for God? The burden of historical, scientific, and anthropological evidence weighs very heavily against such claims. But even if you are right, a God who would send over 90 percent of humanity to hell just because they didn’t manage to be born into or pick the right religion is a monster. Worshipping “him” is the last thing I’d ever want to do.

          One of the wonderful, freeing things I’ve learned about myself since leaving the church is that I don’t need the church to be a good person. I am a good person and want to be an even better person, without the threat of hell or attempts to control or manipulate me spiritually and psychologically. It’s pretty nice not to have to hold such a low opinion of myself as a matter of dogma. I hope you find that out for yourself someday.

          • david cameron says:

            What giveI you theto right to spend heaven eternity with God. Who deserves to go to heaven? Everyone who didn’t murder or rape? Pedaphiles? No one deserves Gods grace. The beauty of it is I can do nothing to earn it. Im sorry you have been around Christians who make you feel like works are what gets you into heaven. I am a despicable person based off of the thoughts that bounce around in my head..
            My only goal is to know God not to make sure today I don’t lie or that I that I Don’t lust. As I get closer to God that stuff comes by his grace alone, not by my willpower. I have more to say but ill leave it at this. The bible is evil the most evil book ever written or true, it can’t be both ways.

            • What gives God (assuming God exists, assuming hell exists, assuming heaven exists) the right to send people to either heaven or hell? Your entire premise is built on a huge number of unproven assumptions.

              And as for “the bible is either the most evil book ever written or true” – that is some incredibly poor logic. Books don’t have to be 100% true to have worth, or have truth in them. I believe there’s a lot of wisdom and beauty in the Bible – and I suspect in a number of other religious texts, too. It’s true that there’s beautiful poetry in the Bible whether it’s inspired or not. There’s also a lot of really awful stuff in the Bible – divinely mandated genocide, for example, and really disgusting misogyny. That’s also true whether the Bible is inspired or not.

              It doesn’t speak well for the Bible that you believe it must either be the most evil thing written or divinely inspired. I think my opinion of it is higher, frankly – I think it’s a tremendously important book that contains a lot of valuable insights into human history and experience. It doesn’t have to be perfectly good for that to be the case, and I certainly don’t find it to be the most evil thing written (goodness, where does that put Mein Kampf or the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, then?).

            • david cameron says:

              * the bible is either the most evil book ever written or true it cannot be both ways.

              Sorry imI still typing on my phone

            • David Cameron says:

              My apologies for responding to the wrong post. For some reason there is no reply option on your last post. First thing I ask is assuming heaven and hell exist, is why wouldn’t God, who created everything, not be able to decide who goes to heaven and who doesn’t? It would be unfair if you or I decided who got into heaven with our screwed up and biased sense of right and wrong. Who should decide? What should the parameters be? I would still argue that the bible would be the most evil book ever written if untrue. Giving hope to people only as some cruel joke. People believe and put all there hope in something only to find that is some joke. Christ is evil( I guess he could also be mentally unstable) or he is God . How is there any other way to look at it? How is your opinion of the bible higher than my opinion of it. I have no doubt that is in isnspired and breathed from God.. Mein Kampf, while a disgusting book, over the course of human history has had a tiny influence in comparison to the Bible. Also you can find good things even in Mein Kampf such as, Hitler talked about the goverment creating praise for national farmers. So while the book as a Whole is disgusting good things can be pulled from it.
              Can you show me a case of misogyny in the bible? I keep wanting to get more in depth but I am constantly short on time. I am thoroughly loving this conversation and appreciate your thoughts. I have spent my life struggling with my sin and the parameters the “church” has put on what is right and what is wrong. What an amazing gift that I have learned that I cannot earn grace. What a beautiful though that Christians do not decide who gets into heaven or hell. What amazing mercy Christ shows me through progressive sanctification!!! I am extremely scatter brained today and so I apologize for that. If my ramblings have become confusing just let me know!!!

            • If you want more answers, read more of my posts. I don’t waste valuable time repeating arguments I’ve already made for people clearly not interested in trying to understand them. If you expect me to answer questions based on the assumption that your holy book contains absolute truth, you first need to prove that assumption to be true. And you can’t, so… moving on.

  3. You really need to read your bible if you disagree with Driscoll’s view of Hell.

    John 14:6
    6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

    • One question – How do you know Jesus actually said those words? The Gospel of John is the oldest of the four, by a lot. Even if it were earlier, there’s no real way to know that Jesus actually said that.

      The Bible is a loosely connected set of texts produced over a long period of time, in many different contexts, by different people and for different purposes. We don’t have the original manuscripts, and there’s evidence of significant editing in many “books” (again, written as separate texts) of the Bible. It also wasn’t written in English, and translation necessarily requires the act of interpretation. There are many different ways to read the Bible, and Driscoll’s way of reading it is, sadly, one of the least informed and open-minded approaches to the Bible possible. This is just one example of that – his image of hell has far more to do with Dante’s Inferno than it has to do with anything the Bible actually says a potential afterlife. Hint – the word “hell” isn’t actually in any biblical texts. The words Sheol, Hades, and Gehenna are. None of them mean hell as we think of it.

      • Problem is, how do we interpret that verse? Even if we take the Bible as infallible, and take it for certain that Jesus said that, how do we know exactly what he meant? Did he mean “nobody can be saved unless they literally hear about me and believe?” or did he mean “nobody can be saved except through my grace and intercession?” The latter meaning leaves a lot more wiggle room for the fates of those people who lived and died before Christ ever even walked the Earth.

        • Exactly. There’s no reason to think Rob Bell is reading the Bible less faithfully than Mark Driscoll is (the opposite is true, IMO, as Bell seems to have taken a lot more time to educate himself than Driscoll). Both are reasoning from the text of the Bible.

          It boggles my mind that conservative Christians are so convinced the Bible can only be properly read in one way. Reading always requires interpretation, and very few texts can be read in just one way.

        • Oh – and thanks for the comments and welcome to the blog!

  4. In concert with John 14:6, Revelations has multiple references the the lake of fire, and the contrast with those who are in the book of life and those who are not. The word ‘hell’ is not so important as the thing that it is. We may indeed have wrong ideas about hell, but there are some clear indicators of who is going there and who is not, as well as what it is. Can we know who is going where for certain? Not in every case. But Based on Jesus’ words in John, there are some clear requirements.
    To attack the credibility of the biblical texts is a base way to begin such a debate. If one does not ascribe to the authority of Scripture, and the infalibility of the Scripture, then you have already moved from a Christian issue, to a criticism of Christianity from an exterior view. To be sure, our translations are varyingly different from the original texts, but the majority of conflicts between old manuscripts and new manuscripts are of minimal importance to the important doctrines of the Christian faith.
    I do not disagree with you that Mark Driscoll is not God, or that he is not infallible, or any number of comments about his style or approach, but to attack the statements that he makes from a groundwork that is outside of a biblical framework is to remove the argument from Christianity and into an alternate philosophy.

    • The lake of fire in Revelation cannot be Hell as commonly understood, because the last things that God tosses into the lake of fire are Death and Hell itself. How do you throw Hell into Hell? The Bible, as has been noted, is not an easy document to interpret sometimes.

      Also, Jesus’ starkest teaching on who’s going to be in hell and who isn’t was in Matthew…and it was pretty clear that the requirements had to do with who is feeding the poor and comforting the sick, and who is not. Driscoll…doesn’t seem to talk about that, much.

  5. My sister has started going to his church and my mother has been raving about MHC for years (because it’s so “hip” and “young” apparently I will just love it). I’m thinking of crashing a service next Sunday with my roommate, but I’m a little scared. Still, what can they do to me?

    • I suspect it probably won’t be that weird on the first visit – unless Driscoll gives one his ragey performances. That’s one of the things I find so disturbing about this subculture of evangelicalism – the ways in which it is really, really off and toxic aren’t immediately obvious. I think a lot of people get sucked in before they fully realize what they really signed up for.

      …Ok, I guess that is a little scary :p

  6. Incidentally, I only just today figured out that Mars Hill Church and Mars Hill Graduate School are unaffiliated. I feel like an idiot, even though I never voiced this assumption out loud. I think it’s MHGS that my mother really loves, though she has also mentioned Mars Hill’s work on human trafficking, which seems to be the church, not the school. What’s your take on the work they are doing in that field? Obviously Driscoll doesn’t think much of women, so does he think he’s white-knighting it here, do you think? Most of the church’s discussion of human trafficking seems to focus on young women. Do you think Driscoll is unaware that boys, too, can be victims of sexual slavery?

    • I still haven’t figured out what Mars Hill Graduate School is about, to be honest. I should look into that.

      Re: Driscoll and human trafficking…well, that’s another thing I should learn more about. MHC is also one of the only evangelical churches I know that’s talking about sexual assauly in a somewhat productive way, talking about avoiding victim blaming and giving victims space to recover as they need. Of course, it’s not entirely unproblematic in a number of ways. I should post about that soon.

      Anyway, I suspect that like with MHC’s recent attention to issues of sexual abuse, their attention to human trafficking is a mixed bag. I do think there’s a white-knight aspect to it – in both discussions there’s little acknowledgement that I’ve seen that Christians can be rapists/sex offenders or be involved in human trafficking. It’s all framed as the pure church swooping in to save or heal victims. So from the get go there’s a dishonesty or ignorance about the church’s complicity in sexual violence.

      The other part I think is problematic (again, without having looked into this really deeply yet) is that trafficking in the church is often framed in really heteronormative ways. The narrative is entirely about male perpetrators and female victims – which is a way of naturalizing and reinforcing ideas that women are “natural” victims and men are “natural” predators. It also reinforces ideas that men are the only ones with sexual desire and agency – NOT that trafficking or sexual assault are actually about sexual desire, but that’s how they’re framed in the evangelical community, as the product of uncontrolled male sexuality and female sexual passivity. And like you say, it erases male and nonbinary victims of trafficking – and female and nonbinary sex offenders, too.

  7. My mom went to some MHGS stuff (apparently they are changing their name soon to avoid confusion/association with MHC), and she told me about it. I also looked it up, just to confirm. It sounds like, while they are still an Evangelical group, they are a lot more open-minded and progressive than MHC. My mother went to some of their programs on healing for painful family situations (abuse, alcoholism, etc…), and she found them to be very good. Now, my mother is extremely right-wing, so I take her assessment with a grain of salt, but so far, I have not seen anything from them that raises any major red flags.

    I look forward to your post on MHC and human trafficking. Your writing is always very insightful!

  8. Comments that proselytize, lecture about how people should read the Bible or what people should believe, or engage in Mark Driscoll bingo (or any other kind of apologism) will be moderated or deleted. – Grace

    • I have to laugh when people lecture me about the supposed “irony” of my name while defending a pastor known for bragging about how much sex he has, teaching that the Bible commands wives to perform oral sex on husbands, calling other religions and spiritual traditions demonic, and routinely screaming at his congregation. Yep, he’s so full of grace.

      This blog is not a platform for evangelical proselytizing and absolutely not for defending misogynist twaddle dressed up as “complementarianism.” So I’m editing your comment.

      • Editing my comment? This seems to be a continuous behavior of yours-as you take so much of what everyone says and twist it around until your hurt and pain from your own experiences in life are justified.
        I am not trying to condemn you, but I am calling you out on this.Too many Christians think it’s all about being sweet, kind and turning the other cheek, but when we are wronged-as you have wronged me on a very personal level-we are to stand up for ourselves accordingly. I didn’t think I said anything negative, but rather I tried to keep it polite, but I believe you are wrong here and in sin.Pride and control are idols and you are putting them before God and His teachings.
        By the way, your immediate response made me wonder what has happened to you to make you get so angry about someone who enjoys marital intimacy with their spouse.Sex within a healthy relationship of marriage is an amazing thing, so by your condemning it, a big red flag is raised for you in my mind.
        You do not have permission to edit my comment, so if you choose not to post it, fine, but do not post something out of context so that your hurt, anger, mistrust, and rage aren’t justified. Rather I pray you find peace and reconciliation through Jesus and let go of this sin that is hurting so many. What you are saying to people is as hurtful if not more so than anything Pastor Mark has said. Being angry at someone is usually an indicator that the person who is angered is battling their own internal frustrations and that hate is projected onto someone else in order for them to feel ok.
        I have listened to most of his sermons and never heard him say women had to do anything to their husbands they were not comfortable doing and he told the men never to make their wives do anything they weren’t comfortable with. Intimacy in marriage can be wonderful and I am sad that whatever happened to you made hurt you as it did. When PM “yells” he is not yelling at the congregation, he is just yelling-as he gets excited. If you take it personally, then you are being convicted and repentance is probably needed to get some tough, icky, jacked up stuff out of your heart so it canbe claimed by Jesus, let go by you, and cleansed by the Holy Spirit so you can grow in holiness.
        Too bad your blog is not a platform for “evangelical proselytizing”, that would definitely be a step up. Don’t use blogging as a means to spread hate and fear-consider this a rebuke as I think you are saying really messed up stuff that is evil. Certainly don’t continue to use it for such evil as you do.
        Anyway, whatever-I am moving on-just as Jesus did when people were hard to the truth. I hope you get better, and since you have put yourself out there, transparently showing how much you need a Savior (as we ALL do), I will pray for you.

        • *are justified

        • I’ve wronged you on a personal level by moderating my own blog? LOL.

          • If you are a true writer, you write on behalf of and in the name of free speech. Denying my right to free speech makes you a hypocrite-moderate that.

            • Shari, it’s probably useless of me to get involved at this point, but I have a few things to point out. Please make an effort to listen with an open mind and heart, as you have requested in your rant above.

              1. “Free speech” only protects us from government interference. Having an opinion does not give you the right to make other listen, and Grace has a well established moderation policy. You would not appreciate someone walking into your church service and shouting after every sentence why the pastor is wrong, and would likely request that he be “moderated.” This is analogous because the arguments and interruptions and “attempts to discuss” would be taking away from the original purpose established by the nature of the discussion. It is not a violation of free speech to ask someone to leave when they are not contributing to the discussion and merely demanding that they be listened to because I have an opinion, goldangit! You are free to blog and take your opinion elsewhere – but your speech is not welcome in this space which is established for a specific purpose.

              2. You’ve committed the “no true Scotsman” logical fallacy here by implying that Grace is not a “true” writer because she has specific guidelines and policies for the discussion on her blog to be healthy and productive. You may not agree that her comment policy (a policy that is well established elsewhere on the blog), but her enforcement of it does not mean she is suddenly not a “true” writer.

              3. It also does not make her a hypocrite. You are imposing upon her an assumption about her attitude toward free speech which she never claimed to hold. And then you are impugning her character by claiming that she has failed to live up to your imaginary standard. It’s like me saying to you, “I expected you to be a donkey! Why are you not a donkey?! You hypocrite!” You never made a claim to BE a donkey, so me calling you a hypocrite for not being one is out of bounds and patently silly.

              Also: I thought you were flouncing on out of here like Jesus?

            • LOL. Free speech is a *political* right. It means that you have the right to say what you want without fear of government retribution. It does not mean you have the “right” to roll up on a random person’s blog and say whatever you want without consequence.

              Also, given that the man you’re defending brags constantly about telling people to shut up and listen while he yells at them, I think I can live with you thinking I’m a hypocrite on this issue. Thanks for the laughs!

  9. This article is just as guilty of every single thing it tries to address as wrong in regards to Mark. You claim Mark is calling himself God because he is claiming an absolute truth, especially in regards condemnation, yet you too say “here’s the truth:”. Unless Mark actually flat out says he is God than you’re taking much of what he says out of context and if claiming you know truth based upon your own conviction is claiming you are God, then you yourself are calling yourself God and should repent.
    Who are you to say Mark is being superficial? Are you God? Do you know Mark?

    • LOL. Are the Mars Hill trolls reading off a script? Or just Mark Driscoll Bingo? This is getting boring. Please try to be a little more original.

      • I personally don’t necessarily disagree with some of the things your trying to say, but your methods and self-righteous approach is bothersome to say the least. I’d actually like to see someone give an adequate response to someone who is inquiring where the bloggers/authors are coming from. That would be a little refreshing.

        • It would be refreshing to get comments from Mars Hill defenders who have actually read more that one post on my blog, or at least the comments policy, but we can’t always get what we want.

          I continue to be amused by commenters who are bothered by my self-righteousness while defending Mark Driscoll. Perspective is a funny thing.

          • I’m not a Mars Hill defender nor do I associate myself with them. I do however feel the need to question someone when they make their stand based on a thing they stand against. And you still haven’t answered my question.

            • Yea, bored now. You’re not entitled to roll up on a stranger’s blog and demand answers to irrelevant and derailing questions. Blocked.