Sunday, May 20, 2018

a Larry Osborne conversation with Mark Driscoll from 2016: part nine some analysis and some questions.

The most striking thing about the interview is that when Mark Driscoll brought up the topic of governance and said that if governance is bad that healthy relationships can compensate, that if relationships are bad healthy government can alleviate, and that if both governance and relationships are poor the church is in trouble is met with by Osborne with what sounds like blithe indifference. Osborne grants that part of what Mark Driscoll went through was governance but he moves quickly to ask about relationship stuff.

When Paul Tripp resigned from the BoAA and said that he did not believe the board, as it was designed, was even capable of doing what it was supposed to do, that seems like a difference of opinion between men who at one point both served on the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability. 

But Osborne asked about relationships and what Driscoll would do differently if he could.  Driscoll’s answer amounts to a Christian book report on a book by Henry Cloud.  The Henry Cloud book might be just fine but Driscoll’s accounting of what was in the book amounts to a taxonomy of the wise, the foolish and the evil, the kind of quick lists of taxonomic groupings of people that he was just as ready to present in Confessions of a Reformission Rev back in 2006.  If this was really supposed to be Mark 2.0 then in this particular area Mark 2.0 and Mark 1.0 don’t seem the least bit different. 

For that matter, giving a Christian book report of axioms is not the same as describing what he wishes he had done different in relational terms.  The report he said was given to him by a Mars Hill board said that he had three areas of weakness that he needed to work on that were not construed as areas of weakness that ultimately disqualified him from ministry.  Which, if any, of those three flaws (pride, anger, domineering leadership style) are or were areas in which Mark Driscoll had some kind of measurable change since his 2014 resignation?  To go by Mark Driscoll’s book report synopsis of axioms from Henry Cloud the answer seems to be that he wishes he knew how to better discern between the wise, the foolish and the evil.  But this is Mark “I see things” Driscoll, who claimed to have been given the ability to discern things.  Couldn’t a person wonder whether what Mark was admitting to was a lack of discernment?  

Now Driscoll talked a bit about forgiveness and that might implicitly indicate dealing with anger, but there’s no clear indication that even that issue has been addressed, let alone the domineering leadership style.  Driscoll shared that you can make a point or you can make a difference but, bro, that’s the kind of bromide that Driscoll was sharing years before he resigned.  So for a good stretch of the interview Driscoll shared axioms and observations in 2016 that do not seem appreciably different from anything he shared in span of 2000 through 2014. 

But then he gets to thirtysomething, the thirty some former leaders he said he met with who all seemed to have some kind of script.  Whether that was supposed to imply that having a script was dubious or lacking credibility is not something Driscoll made clear, perhaps with cause. But back in 2007 when members of Mars Hill wanted to know what was going on with the terminations of Bent Meyer and Paul Petry more than a few of us felt we were handed a scripted response, “when dad and mom are having an argument the kids don’t need to know all the details.”  Who came up with that basic script has never been revealed but the upshot here is that for Mark Driscoll to feel like meeting with former Mars Hill leaders who all, in his estimation, had some kind of shared script and that it felt weird shouldn’t have been a surprise for the simple reason that scripted answers have a precedent in the history of Mars Hill.  Nearly a decade prior a shared script was employed, as recounted by any number of former members of Mars Hill.

Who were these thirty? Did any of them have names?  If Mark Driscoll signed a non-disclosure agreement, as he said to Walsh and Robison in 2017, it’s not exactly clear what that would have covered since Driscoll has shared so many stories about how and why he resigned and what was going on that about the only things that spring to mind that he hasn’t discussed are the size of any potential severance package, the costs associated with acquiring at auction things associated with Mars Hill or The Resurgence, and any of the results of the investigation that may or may not have been complete at the time of Mark Driscoll’s resignation.

Driscoll: um, I met with thirtysome former leaders that would be sort of in the unhappy, disgruntled, frustrated category and almost every single conversation post my-resignation and transition, it's almost like it was a script, and they said the same thing which, I don't know if they were processing together, it's just where it ended up.  And it was, "I can't forgive you because you're not repentant."

And I'd say, "Well, I apologized" and I would give the dates that I apologized with them, one, on multiple occasions I said, "Did I ever do that again?"

"No, you didn't not but I can't forgive you because you've not repented."

I asked, "Well, what does repentance look like?"

And over and over and over it was repentance--forgiveness, rather--forgiveness is at the END of the process, not the beginning and then I will JUDGE you and I can't forgive you until you're repentant and that means that I kind of sit in a God seat, and I need to give it a lot of time, and I can't forgive you until I believe you have come to full repentance as I see it.

Assuming that Driscoll met with roughly thirty former leaders it’s still not clear that any of those thirty reacted in the way Mark Driscoll reported.  Let’s recall that when Andrew Lamb was placed under discipline he was required to sign a discipline contract that he declined to sign.  He was then labeled a wolf.  Being willing to sign the contract was probably taken as a good faith sign of willing to submit to spiritual authority and demonstrate repentance.  That Mark Driscoll chose to resign rather than comply with the restoration plan proposed by a board he said initiated an investigation at his request could suggest to any number of former leaders and members of Mars Hill that Mark Driscoll’s approach to forgiveness, repentance and restoration might be riven with double standards in which he might be held to a substantially laxer standard than those who were at one point under his spiritual or corporate leadership authority.  Whether Mark Driscoll and his sympathizers can recognize this or not, it can look as though Mark Driscoll did not repent because he was willing to submit to spiritual authority and restorative discipline right up to the point that he claimed he heard from God that “a trap has been set”, whatever that can possibly mean.  It can’t be the board itself or even its restorative plan.  Driscoll has repeatedly praised the godly and noble character of the board members.  What else the “trap” could be is ambiguous. 

But surely by 2016 Mark Driscoll could remember how he regarded dissent against the executive elders as literally and figuratively demonic.  Driscoll’s account seems to have it that he went one on one to individuals and asked if he did X more than once and was told, in his accounting, by all of those thirty-some former leaders that, no, he didn’t do X again.  BUT he was told he was not considered repentant.  Driscoll’s claim to ask what repentance looked like is nebulous.  In fact it doesn’t amount to a description but an implicit moral judgment, one in which he presents those who won’t forgive him as exercising a capacity of judgment as if in the position of God that … remarkably resemble Mark Driscoll’s own public ministry approach.

Perhaps Mark Driscoll never stopped to consider that regardless of what he thought he formally taught as a precept the leaders and leadership culture of what was once Mars Hill would follow his actual, lived out example.

That joke about the couch reminds me of how Mark used to joke in early sermons that in the earliest years of his marriage he won all the arguments but slept on the couch a lot.

Driscoll’s discourse on bitterness in his interview with Osborne is so much like what he taught about bitterness as part of the demonic in 2008 there’s little need to expound on it at length here.  It’s worth noting, however, that if bitterness can destroy a church Mark Driscoll made it clear he was very bitter toward his wife Grace for not having sex with him as much as he wanted, and he was also very clear that not-enough-sex-within-marriage was a foundation to the ordinary demonic in Christian spiritual warfare for married people.  So if bitterness and unforgiveness is even more a demonic root to Mark Driscoll now than he said they were a decade ago, how does Mark Driscoll avoid a conclusion that he himself was demonized or demonically influenced by his own bitterness and unforgiveness toward his wife Grace about their sex life?

And where, exactly, was Larry Osborne in all of that? Anywhere? 

Now let’s turn back to the statement itself in the Osborne/Driscoll conversation:

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 [emphasis added]


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.

At this point we can note that Osborne did not go for what, in journalistic terms, seems like the most obvious thing in the world to do.  Osborne did not ask what I would consider the quintessential Barbara Walters question in response to Mark Driscoll’s talk.

Mark, if it’s true that all it takes is bitterness in one heart to destroy an entire church then whose bitterness of heart do you think destroyed the church that used to be called Mars Hill?

That, dear readers, is what I think the Barbara Walters question would be.  Osborne, obviously, didn’t ask that question. There’s nothing in any of the stories Mark Driscoll has shared about himself over the last ten years that suggests he had even one moment where he thought that one person’s bitterness might be his own.

What Driscoll does insist upon is that the key to freedom from demonic torment and imprisonment for Christians is forgiveness.  Now it hardly seems in dispute that you can’t find this in any biblical text in any direct way.  The man in the Gerasene region who had a “legion” demonic possession problem does not look in the Gospels as though the key to his deliverance from demonic oppression was learning to forgive people in his life who hurt him.  No, it looks as though the New Testament accounts are pretty clear that Jesus drove out demons.  Why Mark Driscoll would think that “you” hold the key to whether or not you are imprisoned in a cell of demonic torment based on whether or not you forgive is not something that he seems able to derive from biblical texts and even if he could the natural next question is, “Well, Mark, do you share all this from experience?  When were you in the demonic torment of a cell you put yourself in through your unforgiveness?”

The more practically Driscoll attempts to frame his teaching on forgiveness by tying forgiveness to spiritual warfare and the demonic the more unavoidably he must, at some point, confront the question of why he was demonized within his publicly stated taxonomy about what is involved in demonization or, if he would insist that he was not demonized, explain how he somehow gets an exemption clause, or at the very least explain how, if he ever were demonized or in a cell of demonic torment of his own making through his unforgiveness how he was delivered from that.

As we have seen, it seems that Mark Driscoll and Larry Osborne have had some kind of relationship, however close or formal, for more than fifteen years by now.  Driscoll credited Osborne with asking him questions that forced him to reassess the way Mars Hill was run.  Driscoll also credited Osborne with being the one who taught him how best to architect Mars Hill to be a multisite church.  Osborne also ended up on the Mars Hill BoAA during the period from 2012 through to the end of Mars Hill in 2014.  And now it looks like Osborne is a supporter of Mark Driscoll’s new church in Arizona.   There’s no sense that Osborne was surprised in 2016 even if in 2014 the BoAA statement about Mark Driscoll’s resignation said it was a surprise and even if Osborne’s name was attached to the announcement. 

If Osborne knew Driscoll in the ten years between 2004 and the demise of Mars Hill it’s not clear how Osborne can play a particularly meaningful role in holding Driscoll accountable moving forward.  If in the 2004-2014 period Mark Driscoll got embroiled in a plagiarism controversy, a Result Source controversy, a renewed William Wallace II snafu, and ultimately resigned rather than comply with a restoration plan he claimed he initiated and accepted and all this while in some kind of relationship with Larry Osborne of the Leadership Network more careful, considered questions about what, if anything, the Leadership Network actually does to keep people like Mark Driscoll to some standard of accountability should be asked.  To go by the last fifteen some years of Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill it’s not clear that anyone at the Leadership Network did much of anything. 

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