"The debacle in Seattle is a tragedy, from untold angles," said Piper, who is best known for authoring the book 'Desiring God' and his conservative Calvinist theological stance. "It was a defeat for the gospel, it was a defeat for Mark, it was a defeat for evangelicalism, for Reformed Theology, for complementarianism. It was a colossal Satanic victory.
A little tough to say the Driscoll situation was a defeat for Reformed theology. Evangelicalism? Well, maybe. Defeat for Mark? He's said this year God gave him permission to quit, basically. Sure, Driscoll never mentioned a word of that last year when he actually resigned, but to go by what he's been saying at charismatic conferences this year, it was all part of the plan.
The thing about the claim of a satanic victory is that spirits of calamity bringing torment or devastation on the reigns of corrupt and self-serving rulers is a trope in Old Testament literature. Whether Abimelech or King Saul or King Ahab, the handful of cases where a spirit of calamity or "an evil spirit" hits a leader among God's people can be construed as a divine commission, a judgment against those who arrogated to themselves a type of rule that subjugated rather than served the common good of God's people.
But let's focus a little on the defeat for Reformed theology part. Now maybe Piper doesn't count folks who aren't Calvinist Baptist but let's consider who some of the more familiar public voices providing a critique of Mark Driscoll's doctrine, biblical interpretation and conduct have been over the years.
Let's start with Janet Mefferd, does she seem not-Reformed to John Piper?
How about R. Scott Clark?
How about D. G. "I don’t know why people are not debating whether Driscoll should even be writing books" Hart?
Or, oh, Carl Trueman?
At the risk of mentioning some others, how about Wendy Alsup?
And finally, Wenatchee The Hatchet.
Notice any patterns there? Like, say, how many of them have self-identified as Reformed, and particularly if there are associations with OPC or PCA? For those not already familiar with this, Wenatchee The Hatchet is Presbyterian, as is Wendy Alsup. Trueman is OPC, Mefferd, too (I think). Clark is Reformed.
What Piper seems to have utterly missed is that Mark Driscoll's decline is not really a defeat for Reformed theology because what a number of us in the Reformed camp have been trying to point out for years now is that if you look at what Driscoll's actual doctrinal approach and practice has been he's only been "Reformed" in the sense that religion reporters who were too theologically ignorant or lazy took Mark Driscoll at his word (a matter that seems increasingly dubious, to put it politely) when he kept describing himself as Reformed.
Yet there's not a whole ton of evidence that Driscoll's sacramentology or ecclesiology seems very Reformed. He doesn't even register as charismatic or Pentecostal in a mid-20th century sense. If you pegged him as maybe closer to a Latter Rain or associated camp then, sure, okay, maybe.
But let the record show that if Mark Driscoll's most vocal and persistent critics in the public sphere predominantly hail from the Reformed camp the defeat Reformed theology had was when Mark Drsicoll was ever taken seriously as allegedly a member of "our team" to begin with.
That it took a concerted and conscientious effort on the part of those within the Reformed camp to publicly critique Driscoll before things began to change ... it seems that after a decade of secular/progressive criticism of Driscoll not a whole lot happened. Driscoll was playing to the people who thought he was on their team. Since secular and progressive coverage tended to not dig deep enough to go beyond a "yuck" reaction, it was apparently left to the Reformed and to evangelicals to provide an insider critique.
That Mark Driscoll's advocates might be tempted to claim "all" critics of Driscoll were liberals or progressives is their own failure of imagination. It's not like John MacArthur could be accused of being hugely liberal by anybody. For the majority of a decade Driscoll could and did ignore criticism from anybody he considered to the theological or political right of where ever he decided he was because they didn't matter and he probably had better numbers than they had anyway.
The foundational failure of secular critique to do anything other than bolster Driscoll's image with his fans could be instructive if secularists and progressives were open to that. Unfortunately they may not be, and so it's easier to fixate on the misogyny stuff than to consider what the sociological appeal of the dynamics of Mars Hill may have been so as to replicate elements of that to prevent such a dynamic from taking shape further. Think of all the young guys who have been Driscoll's target demographic as at risk youth, at risk of getting a sales pitch for legacy.
There's still time, Driscoll could prove to be a great uniter of groups that otherwise might not have a chance to learn from each other. Maybe secular progressives and Reformed sticks in the mud have an opportunity for doing something we could both enjoy, a scholastic survey of the sociological dynamics of how this stuff played out. A whole lotta single guys joined Mars Hill in the hopes they'd land a wife. Some of them joined bcause they were idealistic enough to think it could be a positive contribution to theregion. Others were interested in the idea of an evangelical quasi-artists collective. There's a lot that could be studied for those who have not concluded, like guys like John Piper, that everything has been discovered.
If we want history to not repeat itself so quickly next time around we need to not presume that we have nailed down what it was we saw. It isn't ignorance that is the enemy of wisdom, it's assuming you already know.
If Driscoll in any way signals a defeat for Reformed theology it's that we ever took seriously the assertion that he was meaningfully on our team to begin with.
Ironically, if there was someone who was given an opportunity to address the situation with Mark Driscoll and the leadership culture of Mars Hill years ago it was John Piper.
After multiple appeals were continually rejected by Mark and Jamie, we discreetly implored some local and then national leaders, who Mark said he respected, to help us, including John Piper and C.J. Mahaney. No one was willing to get involved. I was shocked and heartbroken again. You’re kidding? The whole Body of Christ and no one is willing to step in, judge the matter, and attempt to make things right? How can Matthew 18 be carried out if not one Christian leader will stand in to bring peace and reconciliation?
Piper can say he wished he had more of an influence but one can ask whether he ever had any influence at all; what if what he had was not influence but a halo effect, a way to lend his credibility to Driscoll in exchange for seeming more relevant to younger guys? If the Driscoll situation does signal a defeat, it might signal a defeat for John Piper in having failed (for whatever reasons) to address the situation years ago when he was invited to intervene.