Monday, April 24, 2017

on the Walsh/Robison interview with Mark Driscoll, part 1: on whether or not Mark really "didn't know Jesus" in his youth, how and when and why he got saved, and on how Driscoll told CT he was a virgin when he met Grace in spite of saying otherwise in Real Marriage

As has become habit with these extended posts, these are published in reverse order to facilitate easier reading.

It might be difficult to find the interview Mark Driscoll had with Sheila Walsh and Randy Robison on Life Today. It would have been the April 6, 2017 interview, if it were currently up.  This transcript may only be up for so long.

[WtH 5-1-2017 

that video has been down at for a while, it turns out, without any clear explanation as to why, but the video remains up at ...

for those who want to read it]

However, as noted earlier at this blog, the narrative Mark Driscoll presented to Walsh and Robison about the history of Mars Hill was sufficiently different enough from what can be documented about Mars Hill over the last twenty some years that it has warranted a long-form analysis.  Let's assume for the sake of the record that Walsh and Robison acted in good faith, an assumption that not everyone in the blogosphere will necessarily embrace.  Even if people have doubts, the nature of the narrative Driscoll shared would still merit a detailed analysis.  So we'll be examining the statements in the interview and comparing them, at length, to the existing extent public record account of Mars Hill from Mark Driscoll's own writing and teaching, as well as from participants in the events connected to church governance crises and the bylaws documents themselves. 

PART ONE: On two preliminary points—“Didn’t know Jesus” and “At 19 got saved reading that Bible”
Week 15: Mission: Rescue Life
Randy Robison and Sheila Walsh
Mark Driscoll

Mark: I grew up in Seattle. My dad was a union drywaller; oldest of five kids. Didn't know Jesus. In high school, at 17, I met a really sweet adorable gal, a pastor's daughter; gave me a Bible. At 19 got saved reading that Bible; 21, married that girl. My rule is always: a gal buys you Bible, buy her a ring. Call it a deal. So I married her at 21.

Let’s start with the “Didn’t know Jesus” part. This account may need some nuances provided by Mark Driscoll’s earlier public statements which will also, by extension, touch on “At 19 got saved reading that Bible”.  For instance, take this sermon from 2002:

Part 4 of Galatians
Pastor Mark Driscoll
Galatians 3:1-14
June 02, 2002


And my misunderstanding was this: I thought that as long as you believed in God and you were a good person, then God would love you and you would go to Heaven. That’s what I thought. And if you would have asked me, you know, when I was up until the age of 18 or 19, “Are you a Christian?” I would’ve said, “Yes, and a Christian is someone who believes in God and is a good person.” And that’s what I thought. Until a drunken frat guy shattered my world with one decent question, and God uses anything. He used a drunken frat guy, who was like a seventh year sophomore to absolutely upset my theological worldview.

I did not drink because I made a list of rules to declare myself self-righteous. So, I said, “Why, I’m gonna be a good person.” I made this little list of things that I thought a good person should be. I won’t lie. I won’t steal. I won’t cheat. I won’t drink. I won’t smoke. I won’t, you know, beat anyone up who doesn’t deserve it. I won’t – I had this list of things that I would do and not do, and I would declare myself “good.” That is the essence of works and self-righteousness. That was basically my worldview. “I make my rules, and I live up to them. I’m a great guy.”

So, I had these rules, and one of my rules was I won’t drink because then God will look down and say, “Well, I’m going to pick Mark for my team because he’s such a great guy.” After all, I was.

So, what happened was I was at a frat party in college, which is not the typical place that God shows up in powerful, illuminating, theological acumen. But this drunken frat guy came up, and he said, “Here. Drink a beer.” And I said, “No, I don’t drink.” He said, “Why?” I said, “I’m a good person.” (Laughter)

And he said, “Well, why do you want to be a good person?” I said, “Because I believe in God, and I’m a good person.” He said, “Well, Jesus drank,” which is about the only part of the Bible he really knew. That and, “Thou shalt not judge.” He put those two verses together, and he’d come up with alcoholism. But anyway. (Laughter)

I said, “No, I’m a good person.” He said, “So, how do you know you’re gonna go to Heaven?” I said, “I know I’m gonna go to Heaven because I’m a good person.” And he asked this question that shattered my world. He was basically mocking me, trying to get me to drink. And he said, “Well, how good do you have to be to go to Heaven?” I thought, “I don’t know. That’s a good question. I don’t know.” And he said, “Do you have to be good all the time? And if you’re not good some days, does that cancel your bad days, and who makes the rules, and how do you know what’s good and bad?” He was just sort of in a drunken stupor rambling, but it was a really good question, I felt, particularly considering his condition. [emphasis added]

I said, “I don’t know,” and I started thinking about that. How good do I have to be? How moral do I have to be, and who determines the morality? Do my good days cancel my bad days, and did my sins cancel my obedience? And I started getting really muddy about where I was at. Up until this point I thought, “I’m a good guy. I’m a great guy.” And then I realized, “Well, maybe I’m not good enough.”


And so, what I decided was, “I’ll read the Bible to get all the rules, and then I’ll do them to make sure that I’m a good guy.” Okay. Now my wife, she was my girlfriend at the time. Moral of the story is if a woman gives you a Bible, give her a ring. She gave me this Bible as a graduation present from high school, and I started reading the Bible.


Perhaps Driscoll felt he had grounds to consider himself a Christian because, as he used to joke, he didn’t drink or smoke and he didn’t beat up anyone who didn’t deserve it. He never cheated on any of the girlfriends he was in relationships with.  Yet at this point we can see that the question of whether or not he “didn’t know Jesus” may depend on what a person means in asking this question.  After all, by his own account Mark Driscoll was an altar boy for a while.
September 30, 2013
An arty, jock, altar boy

I was raised Catholic and served for a few years as an altar boy while attending Catholic grade school.  I've got an artistic bent. I like architecture, interior design, music, visual arts, etc. Growing up I was an odd mix: a jock who played a lot of sports, a fighter who got in more than a few brawls, and an artist who liked to sketch, draw, and experiment in various mediums. I appreciated the artistry of the Catholic Church. Stained glass, paintings, colors, icons, statues, candles--it was all quite beautiful.

Some Catholics are born-again, Jesus-loving Christians. I was not one of them.  I was a spiritual religious guy until Jesus saved me at the age of 19.  ...

Maybe so, but servers (aka altar boys and girls and so on) are expected to have an understanding of the liturgical significance of the rites they assist in.  And yet when Mark Driscoll recounted his youth in a 1992 editorial he emphasized that he was not raised in a fundamentalist Christian home. It might be more precise to say Mark Driscoll grew up Catholic and grew up Catholic in a way that would be counted as “not really knowing or believing in Jesus” to a broad range of low church American Protestants. In an October 1992 editorial Driscoll recounted how he became a Christian trying to win an argument with a “Bible-thumper”.  Driscoll’s editorial is a “I tried to prove Christianity wrong and converted” narrative of a fairly pedestrian and predictable sort; what stands out in his The Evergreen editorial was what he left out, that he had a girlfriend who was a pastor’s daughter who was coming back to a point of taking her Christian faith seriously and had given him a Bible as a gift.


Something else that went unmentioned in the 1992 editorial that Driscoll has mentioned about his time in Catholic church life was that he had a negative impression of the role of the pastor or priest because Christians seemed feminine.

… The last thing I ever thought I would be was a pastor, because growing up Catholic, the pastor is a guy who lives at the church, is flat broke, is committed to never having sex, and walks around in a dress. So pretty much, that was a last career choice of all possible career choices. [emphasis added]


Joe: When he got into high school, he was always into student body president, journalist on a newspaper, redid the high school— somehow or another, he got involved in that. He was always into something.


Yeah, I was a nice—at least I thought—nice, moral Catholic guy. I had a pretty bad temper, did well in school and sports, was dating Grace as a high school student, sleeping with her. She was a pastor’s daughter. So definitely, life was put together wrong.

That was a statement from the 2011 series God’s Work, Our Witness, a decade earlier we see Driscoll said a bit more. The impression he had of the Catholic priest he remembers was not just that the guy was committed to never having sex and walking around in a dress, but that the priest was gay:
Part 5 of Proverbs
Pastor Mark Driscoll | October 28, 2001


You know why schools, Christian schools, Christian churches, Christian ministries are primarily female? Because the church is feminine, and masculine men don’t feel comfortable there. It’s true. The church has adopted, I would say, inordinately the bride metaphor from scripture. Women are very comfortable from that. Men don’t understand that. It’s very hard for a man to think of himself as a bride, wearing a white gown and walking down the aisle. If he’s very comfortable with that, he has significant issues. He has much to work through. And so, there are different metaphors in scripture that men and women will gravitate toward in regards to their relationship with God. For me, this is – this is a very important issue. I was raised in south Seattle, in the ghetto, behind the Déjà vu, next to the airport. Okay? If you’ve been there, you can repent and don’t go there anymore. [emphasis added] But, for the rest of you, if you don’t know where it’s at, that’s fine. It’s – it’s an interesting neighborhood. Gang-banging, drive-by’s, drugs, prostitution, the green river killer was there, the whole thing. One of the local elementary schools would have to go out on Monday and take the used condoms and the syringes off the playground before the kids came. And so, I was the oldest of five kids. And I grew-up in a blue-collar, hard-working, union family. My dad’s name is Joe, and he hangs drywall. Okay?

My dad’s a guy. My brothers are guys. I’m a guy. We love each other. Things are good. I come from a decent home. And one my biggest fears in high school was becoming a Christian, because I thought immediately I would have to become very feminine. ‘Cause all the guys I knew who were Christians were just very – very soft, very tender, very sort of weak guys. And I thought, “That’s just not gonna work.” So, I wouldn’t go to youth group. They tried to drag me to – I was in a Catholic church and our priest was gay, and I didn’t get this guy at all. He would wear silk shirts and silk pants, and he would wear low – basically, like, bathroom slippers all the time. [emphasis added] And he would tan all year. So, he had a nice bronze glow.

And I didn’t relate to this guy at all, not in the least. I don’t – I don’t – silk? Just – I don’t get that. And so, he – he was this very, very feminine guy. And they tried to – I tried to go to church with my family and I didn’t get it. So, they tried to take me into this youth thing, and it just didn’t work. So, I just left. I said, “That’s it. I’m gone. There’s no men here.” [emphasis added]  ‘Cause it was all older ladies, women and children. You couldn’t find a guy anywhere near it, and that’s not unusual. When I came to Christ in college, reading the Bible, and realized the gospel, and I went looking for a church; and a few of the first churches I went to were just completely uncomfortable. It was like walking into Victoria’s Secret. The décor, at first, it’s like fuchsia and baby blue, and there’s pink, and it’s just like, “What in the world has happened here?” And then the songs are very emotive, and it’s like love songs to Jesus, like we’re on a prom together or something. And I didn’t get that at all, ‘cause that made me feel real odd. And then – and then the guy preaches, and he’s crying and all this stuff, and trying to appeal to my emotions. And I was just like, “This didn’t work.” So, I kept looking for a church. So, I found a church where the guy got up and he said, “This week I was out bow-hunting.” He used that as an illustration. So, I became a member of that church. True story. I didn’t have any theological convictions, but if a guy killed things then I – he could be my pastor. [emphasis added]

So the young Driscoll’s impression of men in Christian ministry was that they seemed to be weepy gay guys wearing silk shirts who cried a lot while talking about their feelings.  As nominal a Christian as Driscoll claimed to have been, one possibility for how he could have gained such a vivid sense of why he didn’t want to be in ministry could have come from his time as an altar boy. 

There’s something else worth mentioning about Mark Driscoll meeting Grace Martin, which is that even though Real Marriage, the book published by Mark and Grace Driscoll in 2012, detailed how neither of them were virgins when they met each other, this did not stop Mark Driscoll from saying, for the record, that they were both virgins when they met in a Christianity Today interview in 2012.

Interview by Katelyn Beaty and Marlena Graves/ January 5, 2012


Is there tension in teaching sexual purity before marriage while encouraging frequent and wonderful sex within marriage?


M: No, and for us, we sinned, quite frankly. We were virgins when we met and were sleeping together as high-school boyfriend and girlfriend. Then Grace came back to Christ, and I came to Christ in college, so we had to stop sinning sexually. I'd say if we both could go back and rewrite history and change one thing, that would probably be the thing we would change. [emphasis added] But we did repent and met with our pastor. And then we did get married, between our junior and senior years of college

The statement that both Mark Driscoll and Grace Martin were both virgins when they met each other could not have been more flatly contradicted by the text of Real Marriage:

Real Marriage
Mark and Grace Driscoll
Copyright (c) 2012 by On Mission, LLC
Thomas Nelson
ISBN 978-1-4002-0383-3
ISBN 978-1-4041-8352-0 (IE)

Page 7

Neither Grace nor I was a virgin when we met, and before long we were dating and sleeping together, which continued even after she went off to college while I was finishing high school. [emphasis added]

page 9-10
To be honest, fornicating was fun. I liked fornicating. To stop fornicating was not fun. But eventually Grace and I stopped fornicating, got engaged, and were married between our junior and senior years of college.

I assumed that once we were married we would simply pick up where we left off sexually and make up for last time. After all, we were committed Christians with a relationship done God's way.
But God's way was a total bummer. My previously free and fun girlfriend was suddenly my frigid and fearful wife. She did not undress in front of me, required the lights to be off on the rare occasions we were intimate, checked out during sex, and experienced a lot of physical discomfort because she was tense. [emphasis added]

Before long I was bitter against God and Grace. It seemed to me as if they had conspired to trap me. I had always been the "good guy" who turned down women for sex. In my twisted logic, since I had only slept with a couple of women I was in relationships with, I had been holy enough, and God owed me. I felt God had conned me by telling me to marry Grace, and allowed Grace to rule over me since she was controlling our sex life. [emphasis added] I loved Grace, but in the bedroom I did not enjoy her and wondered how many years I could white-knuckle fidelity. ... We desperately needed help but didn't know where to turn. Bitterness and condemnation worsened.

page 13
... When I discovered her sin against me and that she had punished me with resulting years of sexual and emotional denial, I felt like a real fool, and my world crashed down around me. It seemed everything I had been striving for since I was a little boy was in vain. In idolizing marriage, I ended up demonizing Grace and doubting God.

page 14
I grew more chauvinistic. I had never cheated on a girlfriend, but I never had a girlfriend who did not cheat on me. And now I knew that included my own wife. So I started to distrust women in general, including Grace. [emphasis added] This affected my tone in preaching for a season, something I will always regret.

Given how thoroughly Mark and Grace Driscoll’s book stated otherwise it remains a mystery why Mark Driscoll would have told writers in an interview with Christianity Today that both he and Grace were virgins when they met.  To have done so was to paradoxically rewrite history while expressing the wish to go back and rewrite history in a different way by having chosen a different path.   That Mark Driscoll gave such drastically different answers as “yes” and “no” on the question of whether he and Grace were virgins when they first met each other invites a question as to why he could, or would, give such radically different answers on such a simple topic of inquiry.  As we’ve seen from different accounts Mark Driscoll has given about how and why he became a Christian there seemed to be room for contextual emphasis depending on the rhetorical or polemical aims of a specific sermon or interview.

 There might be room for debate and interpretation as to whether he really “knew Jesus” in the way a low church American Protestant would define knowing Jesus. There’s hardly any wiggle room on whether he was or wasn’t a virgin when he met Grace Martin. Either he was or he wasn’t, right?  Yet on such a basic question Driscoll demonstrated for the record he was capable of giving two very different answers depending on the context in which he was communicating.

If there’s room for questions as to how sincerely Driscoll was or wasn’t an observant Catholic there’s considerably less room to doubt the scope of his ambitions for Mars Hill when he co-founded it, a topic we shall now turn to.

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