Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Mark Driscoll's Forgiveness Challenge, anticipated by his 6-12-18 forgiveness post, continuing a theme of Driscoll's over the last ten years of unilateral Christian forgiveness as a talisman against demons a bit more than as a sign of relational health

No, this isn’t the Babylon Bee

With the help of Charisma Media, Mark Driscoll has launched the Mark Driscoll Forgiveness Challenge. Apparently if you give Charisma your email, they will send you an e-book and a bunch of stuff.
Since he ran with this five-part clickbait through the pages thing on reasons you should forgive today because revenge obituaries are a thing ...
this was something Driscoll published back on June 12.  You have to click through each of the five rather clickbait Patheos pages to read the whole article. It seems kind of mercenary that something that is ultimately so short should take no less than five clicks through five pages to read in its not-very-big entirety.  But then Patheos is an advertisement-driven looking kind of platform and if there's a way to quintuple the ad exposure and variety possible for reading a single article ... maybe that's how some platforms work?  Well ... a bullet point version:

1. When you forgive, you glorify God.
2. When you forgive, you give others what God has already given you.
3. When you forgive, you are blessed.
All these seem pedestrian enough but let's keep 3 in mind as we proceed to 4. Here it seems necessary to quote Driscoll.
4. When you forgive, you defeat the demonic.
Satan and demons are never forgiven for anything and never forgive anyone for anything. God travels on the path of forgiveness, Satan and demons travel on the path of unforgiveness.

To refuse to forgive is to open oneself to the realm of the demonic. This connection explains why the Bible often speaks of the demonic in the same places that it speaks of forgiveness and unforgiveness. [emphasis added] Colossians 2:13-15 says that through Jesus’ cross God has “forgiven us all our trespasses” and “disarmed the rulers and authorities”.  2 Corinthians 2:10-11 says, “Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” Ephesians 4: 27-32 says, “give no opportunity to the devil” and. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Lastly, James 3:14-17 says, “…if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.”
Those who are forgiven by God but refuse to be forgiving of others end up in a prison of demonic torment. Jesus tells this very story in Matthew 18. His point is that when we allow our hurt to turn into hate, we find ourselves trapped in a bitter prison of torment. [emphasis added] It’s the same thing Acts 8:23 speaks of as, “…the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.”
Let's interrupt this discourse to note what Matthew 18:29-33 says.in the NIV
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
So ... you might think reading this parable we'd have a clear understanding that God the Father will treat the unforgiving in the same way that unforgiving people treat others; but the prison and torture would seem to more traditionally involve what people would colloquially understand as Hell rather than demonic torment.  Not that it "couldn't" possibly be some kind of self-imposed "cell" of torment, it's just that whenever I've read this parable I've taken the judgment to have an eschatological significance to it.  Even without a reference to, say Klyne R. Snodgrass's sweeping overview of all of Jesus' parables in Stories with Intent, we can surmise that the prison and torture of the unforgiving steward is what God does to the unforgiving person, not some demon, let alone Satan.  It simply doesn't seem to be clear from the parable that the kind of punishment meted out at the end of Jesus' parable is necessarily a this-worldly mode of torture.  Which is why it's even less clear that Driscoll's next point is even remotely relevant to an interpretation of Matthew 18 as he presents its meaning:

The question is, “Who has the key to get us out?” Does the other person have the key of repenting after agreeing with us and apologizing to us? If so, they hold all the power over our life and future and we must beg and beat them to repent so we can exit our cell. Or, do we hold the key to our deliverance in our own hand and place it in the lock through forgiveness?

If you are bitter, you are in anguish, haunted by demonic torment and living in a jail cell of misery believing a lie that anyone other than you holds the key to set you free. Because God loves you, you need you to forgive them as God has forgiven you. In so doing you are simply passing their case on to God’s higher court and giving up the constant attempt to convene a jury (even online via social media or a revenge obituary), sit on a bench, try the entire case, and bang your gavel with your verdict for their punishment. Leave the eternal judgment and sentencing to Jesus, forgive them, put the key in the lock, open the cell, and walk in the Spirit away from the demonic.

Now, yes, we should forgive as God has forgiven us.  What seems most salient in the case of Mark Driscoll is that if he is a steward who was given 10,000 talents that he somehow couldn't account for were there any cases where he may not have forgiven those he felt owed him a hundred denarii?  Let's put it another way, were any people removed from ministry under Mark Driscoll's formal and informal leadership at Mars Hill who may have been punished for perceived or real procedural infractions over the last twenty years?  Were those infractions as significant as the alleged infringement of intellectual property Mark Driscoll was confronted about during the 2013 plagiarism scandal?  This point seems more than merely academic or theoretical in as much as Mars Hill in its 2011 trademark imbroglio shared with the public how in addition to sharing many things for free they had many things stolen.  Had it turned out that a church concerned about lack of respect for its intellectual property had a leader or leadership team that was itself cavalier about such things?  For Driscoll to invoke Matthew 18 the way he does raises questions about why he's so set on presenting the prison and torture in Matthew 18 as a demonic torment rather than as divine judgment from the Father. 

The Klyne Snodgrass book on Jesus' parables really is a fantastic read, not coincidentally.

There's not a lot I can see about Matthew 18 that suggests that "if" you refuse to forgive you end up in a jail cell of demonic torment for which you have the key to get yourself out by forgiving people who hurt you.  The inability to forgive would seem to suggest, rather, that those unable to forgive as Christ has forgiven them do not themselves know the forgiveness of Christ. 
But Driscoll's been on a long-running riff about how you need to forgive people who may have hurt you so that you are not trapped in demonic bitterness.  It's been something he's advocated over the last decade.
February 5, 2005
Mark Driscoll
Part 2, The Devil
about 34:10

The way bitterness works, as well, is bitter people are prone to blame their bitterness on the person that they perceive offended them. Amy Carmichael. she's a missionary, her little book If, she gives this great analogy she says:

If I have a glass filled with sweet water and I bump it, what comes out? Sweet water. She says if I have a glass of bitter water and I bump it, what comes out?  Bitter water.

All that sin against us, perceived sin against us, or bitter envy and selfish ambition by us reveal is what's already in our heart. The bitterness is IN there, and someone or some thing spilled it. And bitter people will say, "Look what you made me do. You made me sin, you made me gossip, you made me angry, you made me bitter, you made me fight, you made me run into conflict, you made me sin in my anger. Look what you made me do." And the answer is, "I didn't make you do anything. That was what was in your heart." I just bumped you.

about 45:00
What he says is, if you're a Christian and God, through Jesus Christ, is not bitter with you but forgives you then you must use the Gospel in your relationships to forgive other people. You have no reason to be bitter with them. In being bitter with them what you are saying is, "I refuse to use the Gospel for my relationships. I refuse to allow Jesus to do anything." And when you say that you ARE saying, "I am inviting Satan instead."

uploaded November 16, 2016

092816 400 Gathering Session 1

The question is, once we are hurt--and there's a difference between hurt and harmed. It's important to note that--once we are hurt we can either choose bitterness or forgiveness. As soon as we choose bitterness what we've determined is we will live in a cell where we are demonically tormented because Satan and demons have never forgiven anyone; they're never forgiven of anything; and as soon as we say, "I do not do forgiveness" what we're saying is, "I DO do the demonic." And I believe that Satan and demons, that the foothold of all the demonic is in the realm of unforgiveness.

And so what happens then is, you're in a jail cell of bitterness and hurt--the worst day becomes your every day; you take the worst of your past into your future; and the question is, "Do THEY have the key by repenting or do YOU have the key by forgiving?" and I believe that the Bible is clear that we hold the key to get out of our own cell of demonic torment and bitterness and frustration and living with the unending loop of in our mind of the worst parts of our life 

and so, honestly, for me it was a long Bible study with the family--we couldn't go to church for a long time so on Sunday mornings we'd do that as a family, and did a long Bible study on forgiveness--[I] needed my children to forgive me for things I'd said and done to contribute; we needed to forgive others for things they'd said and done to contribute; and I want to make sure there was not a root of bitterness in my heart or in my family because the Bible is clear in Hebrews that eventually that grows up to defile many and all it takes is bitterness in one heart to destroy an entire church


and so ('m not saying I'm particularly skilled at forgiving but) I just see that, that it IS demonic [unforgiveness], that it HARMS those who don't forgive,  and it allows us to have empathy for those who are hurting and to pray that they would come to experience the kind of forgiveness that the Lord forgave them because those who are forgiven are to be forgiving and when we STOP that flow I believe we stop the flow of the Holy Spirit in our life and I believe we stop the flow of the Holy Spirit in our relationships. [emphasis added]
That's from a 2016 interview about which people could ask a simple question--if Mark Driscoll claimed that one bitter heart could destroy an entire church then whose bitter heart would he say destroyed Mars Hill Church? 
That's what I asked over here.
Driscoll tends to skip past the existence of Mars Hill and his time there.  He also has not addressed a fairly simple question that comes up about his teaching on bitterness in connection to applying it rather simply to his description of his bitterness toward his wife Grace about their sex life for a decade, if bitterness is what comes out of you because it is in your heart when you get "bumped"; if bitterness is choosing to ally with Satan rather than Jesus on the matter of forgiveness; and if Driscoll recounted repeatedly he was bitter at his wife about sex issues; then why, by Mark Driscoll's own metrics and litmus tests for bitterness as a domain of the demonic, was Mark Driscoll himself not demonized? 
Anyone can say that you have to forgive so that you are not trapped in a demonic cell of torment but even if we set aside that this is not exatly an agreed upon interpretation o Matthew 18 as it is, why would it be important to someone like Mark Driscoll to keep insisting over and over again that you bear the responsibility to forgive those who hurt you (what about harmed? Would Driscoll advise those harmed by someone like a Larry Nassar forgive so as to be free of demonic torment?)?
[it would be on page 4]
So I sat down with my kids. I said, "Okay, you need to forgive your dad for anything he's contributed. We need to forgive anyone else who has participated in this complex situation. Because what I don't want to raise is bitter pastor's kids who are in demonic torment because they have a church hurt. We need to forgive, we need to love, we need to heal up." And so we did church together at home as a family for many, many months; then invited some family and friends to join us just to have safe fellowship and community. So my kids basically ran their own church. [emphases added] And I got to teach, sometimes in my pajamas, which was really great.
So, clearly, Driscoll was concerned that his kids might be bitter against him about what happened to them in the years of the demise of Mars Hill, concerned enough that he taught them "you need to forgive your dad for anything he's contributed." Contributed to ... what?  Contributed ... what ... to what situation?
What's concerning about this approach to forgiveness as protection against demonization for Christians is that, without really wishing to go down the exegetical and hermeneutical rabbit trails of how and whether a Christian can be demonized, even if we were to magically assume that everything Mark Driscoll had to say about forgiveness and demonic jail cells was true (and you may have just seen what I did there already) doesn't Mark Driscoll's teaching about the necessity of Christians forgiving so as not to be trapped in a jail cell of demonic torment seem like this is a version of forgiveness that is less a reflection of Christian ethical life and witness so much as wielding parables of Jesus in the synoptics in a way that reduces the power of Christian forgiveness to a kind of ... sympathetic magic.  Forgive everybody so your Christian mojo isn't lost and you can have your best life now? 

5. When you forgive, you show the world your real beliefs.

The world is watching, and our true view of God is revealed by how we respond when we’re wronged. Acts 7 shows an angry mob led by Saul—later renamed Paul—as they stone the early church leader Stephen. As Jesus rose from his throne in heaven to give Stephen a standing ovation, Stephen fell to his knees and cried aloud, “Lord, don’t hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60). When Stephen forgave his murderers, others saw the power of God’s forgiveness. Paul would later become a great messenger of the forgiveness he witnessed in Stephen that day.

I'm not sure I'd say that other people saw the power of God's forgiveness at precisely the moment Stephen died if the majority of people who were at the event were killing the man. Luke records the account for our benefit, certainly, but if our true view of God is revealed by how we respond when we're wrong then perhaps the truest view of God Mark Driscoll revealed was in stuff like this:


 Mark Driscoll TRAINING PASTORS at an Acts 29 session in Raleigh NC, September 20, 2007:

“…not contentious. You ever meet a guy, it doesn’t matter what the issue is, he’s always gonna play the other side. Those guys are the worst elders in the history of the world. And it doesn’t matter what you’re talk,

I had a guy like that; I recently put him in the wood chipper in my church. Seriously. I could say hey, we’re all going to get suckers. He’s be like, what flavor? Whatever flavor you want. Is it sugar free? If you would like. Well, I didn’t say I wanted a sucker. You, you know, you need to die. You know.[emphasis added]  He just was the guy, he just, he had to nitpick at everything; he had to resist everything, he to look at the other side, if everyone was for something he felt obligated to be the e-brake pulling everything. And you’d ask him why, he’d be like, well, I just wanted to make sure we’ve looked at everything and everybody is considering all the angles. Its like, dude, you’re playing the devils advocate, which is not good. I don’t want anybody for the devil on my team. You know? But there’s some guys like that. It just, they’re contentious, it doesn’t, they’re always fighting, always arguing.

There’s, I’ve had guys in eldership, where, in the meeting, everything’s going fine, and they’ll say, I got something, I got something I need to say. And everybody’s head does this; everybody looks like they just got kicked in the sack. You know, I mean literally, they just the air comes out of their body, they just fold in half, because you know, here he goes again, here he freaking goes again. You know. That guy on an elder board, robs the board of any joy at all, and you already got enough criticism and people and work, when you get together with your elders, you don’t all men to be yes men, but at the same time, somebody who’s just contentious, and a neatnick and e-brake puller, I mean those guys, I mean all of a sudden you despise your elder’s meetings, and I’ll tell you what, when you despise your elders, at that point you have no safe place in the world from which to do ministry. Elders meetings stink, people are shooting me, everything’s hard, and I go to meet with the guys, and there’s always one guy there who just, he’s just like a fart in an elevator, and its just, you know, I’m just counting the minutes till I can get away from this guy. You can pray for me, you may say, it seems like he’s dealing with this right now, yes, I am. I’m thinking of certain people. If it weren’t for Jesus I would be violent.” [emphases added]

On September 30, 2007 Mark Driscoll preached his last sermon in a series going through the book of Nehemiah.

You either enjoy confrontation or you enjoy sin. You get to pick one or the other. If people sin and there's not confrontation then you better enjoy sin because that's what's going to happen.

"Then I confronted them and I cursed them"

He's just cussing guys out.

"and beat some of them." I'll read that again, "and beat SOME of them."

Now he's an older guy and he's beating up members of his church. What do we do with that? I'll tell you what I'd LIKE to do with that. I'd like to follow in his example. There's a few guys here that, if I wasn't gonna end up on CNN, that I would go Old Testament on `em even in leadership of this church.

Here’s what I’ve learned. You cast vision for your mission; and if people don’t sign up, you move on.  You move on. There are people that are gonna to die in the wilderness and there are people that are gonna take the hill. That’s just how it is.

Too many guys waste too much time trying to move stiff-necked, stubborn, obstinate people. (pause) I am all about blessed subtraction. There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus (laughs) and by God’s grace it’ll be a mountain by the time we’re done.

You either get on the bus or you get run over by the bus. Those are the options; but the bus ain’t gonna stop.  [emphasis added] And I’m just a—I’m just a guy who is like, “Look, we love ya, but, this is what we’re doing.”

There’s a few kinda people. There’s people who get in the way of the bus. They gotta get run over. There are people who wanna take turns driving the bus. They gotta get thrown off (laughs). ‘Cuz they wanna go somewhere else. There are people who will be on the bus, leaders and helpers and servants, they’re awesome.

There’s also just, sometimes, nice people who sit on the bus and shut up. (pause) They’re not helping or hurting. Just let ‘em ride along. Y’know what I’m saying?  But, don’t look at the nice people that are just gonna sit on the bus and shut their mouth and think, “I need you to lead the mission.”

They’re never going to.  At the very most you’ll give ’em a job to do and they’ll serve somewhere and help out in a minimal way. If someone can sit in a place that hasn’t been on mission for a really long time they are by definition not a leader.  And, so they’re never going to lead.

You need to gather a whole new court. I’ll tell you guys what, too. You don’t do this just for your church planting or replanting. I’m doin’ it right now. I’m doin’ it right now. We just took certain guys and rearranged the seats on the bus.

Yesterday we fired two elders for the first time in the history of Mars Hill last night. They’re off the bus, under the bus. They were off mission so now they’re unemployed. I mean (pause) you—this will be the defining issue as to whether or not you succeed or fail. I've read enough of the New Testament to know that occasionally Paul put someone in the woodchipper, y'know? [emphasis added]

Christians are taught to forgive but Christians are also taught to confess and repent. 


Driscoll's teaching on forgiveness at this point seems to put the burden of spiritual activity on the Christian to forgive so as to avoid the threat of demonic activity invading their lives because of unforgiveness.   And yet there seem to be caveats in the Bible itself if we look it over.  What about Proverbs 26:2?  If an undeserved curse is like a flitting sparrow then there seem to be curses that are uttered that have no effect.  But Driscoll has something else in mind:

When we leak and vent our complaints and grievances, we forget that the world is watching. We lose the opportunity to put the gospel of forgiveness into practice, which is the exact thing that our world desperately needs to see so that people can become healthy and live better lives forgiven and forgiving. Is there anyone that you need to take some time between you and God to forgive today and not waste another day living in bitterness?

(2) http://www.startribune.com/son-who-wrote-humiliating-obit-about-mom-we-wanted-to-get-the-last-word/484867381/
(3) http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/06/06/survivors-penning-revenge-obituaries-to-settle-scores-with-departed.html
Now, sure, revenge obituaries seem like they're in terribly bad taste and don't do well by honoring father or mother even in cases where father or mother were just bad people.  That was the catalyst, apparently, for Driscoll's Patheos post. 
It seems like a claim made in egregiously bad faith to say that when we leak and vent our complaints and grievances (where?), we forget that the world is watching.  Mark Driscoll made it part and parcel of his job to leak and vent his complaints and grievances through social media and mass media for the entire English-speaking and English-reading world that would give him any attention. 
Notice at the end that the question is "Is there anyone that you need to take some time between you and God to forgive today and not waste another day living in bitterness?" Who is missing in that question?  Any actual person that "you" might need to be reconciled with.  This is something that has been mixed in with Driscoll's bromides about forgiveness for years.
On Monday, June 17, 2013, Mark Driscoll posted a few tweets on forgiveness amid thoughts about
things like Father's Day.

Forgiveness is not covering up sin committed against us. If a crime is committed, you can
forgive someone & still call the cops.
10:38 AM - 17 Jun 13

Healthy transitions in relays & leadership come down to the handoff. Train up your successor.
Don't chuck the baton & storm off the track.
1:20 PM - 17 Jun 13

Forgiveness is a gift to your offender...and to yourself, freeing you up to move on with your
5:25 PM - 16 Jun 13

Forgiveness is a gift to your offender and to yourself, freeing you up to move on with your life ... but you can still totally call the cops if a crime has been committed.  Maybe someone can get fired though they're forgiven? It seemed that in mid-June 2013 Driscoll was thinking about how forgiveness is a gift he could give to someone who offended him, and to himself so he could move on with his life, though apparently forgiveness didn't mean covering up a sin committed against "us".  And healthy transitions in relays and leadership come down to the handoff.  Train up your successor and don't chuck the baton and storm off the ... track?
Weird, like, a year later it could have looked like Mark Driscoll basically did chuck the baton and stormed off the track and Mars Hill collapsed because healthy transitions in leadership couldn't come down to a handoff with what used to be Mars Hill.
Mark Driscoll's forgiveness challenge isn't a surprise. It looks like it's in keeping with a set of ideas he's taught about forgiveness as a method to preclude demonic influence for at least the last ten years.  Strangely, even with such a normative approach to forgiveness in place and explicitly advocated by Mark Driscoll in 2008 somehow the scandals of 2012 through 2014 up through to the end of Mars Hill happened anyway.

That the root of bitterness described in the epistle to the Hebrews is not necessarily the bitterness of "you" as a systemic sin or evil within the church that, if not addressed, would be the catalyst and cause of bitterness is something that others have tackled.  Wendy Alsup (hi Wendy!) has blogged about this in the past.


The tendency in lazy Christian interpretation is to put all the weight on the root of bitterness rather than look at the root of the bitterness.  If a Driscollian taxonomy of required unilateral Christian forgiveness were applied without finesse or consideration to a Sandunsky situation or a Nassar situation gymnasts and athletes could be admonished to just forgive and "move on" to demonstrate Christian love.  That's not what the text of Hebrews is ... necessarily instructing. 

Why would Scripture here warn against a “root of bitterness” rather than simply bitterness itself? Most agree that bitterness is a bad trait. Ephesians 4:31 teaches us to put away bitterness. Wrath, anger, clamor, bitterness – all of these are unhealthy and unhelpful forms of human speech. Yet Hebrews 12:15 is different. It isn’t bitterness that is addressed but the ROOT of bitterness that defiles many. This is a darkly sinful core from which many others are defiled. When you hear bitter, angry speech among many different people, this root is what you find when you take one step back to see what they are all bitter about. Widespread public bitterness is an indicator of a root problem that is defiling many.
It's understandable if a parent wants very much for his or her children to not be bitter against them.  That's easy ot understand.  At the same time, given that Driscoll has never apologized for saying that there was a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus and that by God's grace there'd be a mountain before they (he) were/was done, for Driscoll in 2018 to keep on the idea that "you" need to forgive to be released from demonic imprisonment pretty naturally raise the question of why all the emphasis in Driscolls teaching is on your obligation to forgive.  In Driscoll'sown marriage he asked his wife how more sex could happen so as to remedy his depression and moodiness, he may have forgiven his wife and been forgiven by her but even within the lexicon of Driscoll's own practical teaching they had more sex, enough more sex for Mark Driscoll's mood to change.  Why would Mark Driscoll teach a form of Christian forgiveness to "you" in which everything hinges upon the benefits you accrue, whatever those are, from simply unilaterally forgiving more when by Mark and Grace Driscoll's own book Real Marriage mutual forgiveness and more sex was what helped them out?  It seems after all these years Mark Driscoll is still hung up on a kind of Christian ethical teaching that can be misconstrued as "do what I say you should do, don't pay any attention to what I did in my own life."

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