“Has anyone ever contacted Mark Driscoll privately?”

mark-driscoll-t-shirtThat, of course, is the question we are always asked when we address the issue of the language used by Mark Driscoll when he preaches. “Has anyone ever contacted Mark Driscoll privately?” Well, we can now answer that question in the affirmative. Phil Johnson shares his attempts–unsuccessful attempts–to dialog with Driscoll concerning his pulpit language.

These are roughly in order from the most common questions to the most bizarre:

Have you or Dr. MacArthur ever personally shared your concerns personally with Mark Driscoll?

Yes. I sent Mark a 6-page letter the first week of December, telling him what I was planning to deal with at the Shepherds’ Conference. I explained why I thought his message at the Desiring God Conference in September left some of the most important objections to his own use of crass language unanswered. I also enumerated six specific questions that I thought would help my understanding of his position.

Fair enough. Isn’t that what Driscollites want to hear? If someone has taken this matter to Driscoll personally and privately? (Even though the fact that Driscoll has made his messages public, thus negating the need for steps 1 and 2 of church discipline laid out by Christ in Matthew 18.).

So, Phil Johnson has stated that he petitioned Driscoll personally. Driscoll’s response?

Mark didn’t reply or acknowledge my letter until one week prior to the Shepherds’ Conference. Then he phoned and said he would answer me by video since the timing was late. When the video arrived, Driscoll had addressed his reply not to me but to the attendees of the Shepherds’ Conference—as if I had invited him to share my time slot at the conference.

His reply also ignored the six questions enumerated in my letter. Instead, he answered a question of his own choosing, saying he believed that one answer would suffice as an answer to all my questions.

John MacArthur likewise attempted to correspond with Driscoll a year and a half ago. He too received no answer for almost six months, and when the answer finally came, it was routed indirectly, through an e-mail sent by Driscoll’s secretary to John MacArthur’s secretary. Curiously enough, Driscoll’s reply to John came on the first day of last year’s Shepherds’ Conference.

Driscoll clearly does not take his critics very seriously. Communication with him hasn’t done anything so far to convince me that he understands (or wants to understand) the concerns some of us have tried to express to him.

Does that answer your question? Next question from Driscollites:

Didn’t you know that Driscoll has already repented of using bad language?

So I hear. I mentioned that fact in my letter to Driscoll and cited three well-known instances of ribald jokes and profane remarks that occurred long after he said he was sorry for past sins of the tongue. The first of my six questions to him was, “How do the above remarks differ from things you previously said you had repented of?” He did not answer that question.

Obviously, Driscoll did not think he was in the wrong for using crude, vulgar language from the pulpit. Even though we are admonished by the apostle Paul thusly–

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks (Ephesians 5:4).

Now, the Driscollite will try and spin this to say that Driscoll is trying to relate to the culture. And, of course, they will throw these red herrings at us–

1st Corinthians 9:19-22For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
Philippians 1:18whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.

I say “red herrings” because while these are indeed Scripture, and were spoken to the apostle by the Holy Spirit, they are taken by those who defend potty-mouthed preachers and twisted to say something they do not mean. Do those who use these Scriptures really believe Paul would have approved of Timothy attending drunken orgies in the temple of Diana in Ephesus in order to “relate” to the culture of the Ephesians? Or that he himself should dabble in magic as the sorcerers? In fact, what did the magicians do in Acts when they heard the gospel of Christ? If you take that passage from 1st Corinthians too far, you wind up saying that Paul put himself under the curse of the law to win the Jews–a belief that runs completely contrary to the whole reason he wrote Galatians.

So, what does it mean? That Paul “became all things to all men?” It is quite obvious if you study they Scriptures. It means that he addressed whatever audience he was speaking to as one who had previously walked in the very ways they were now walking–not that he was currently walking in those ways. Remember how he had Timothy circumcised? Even while he had in his possession the letter from the Jerusalem Council saying that one need not be circumcised to be a Christian! Why did he do that? I believe it was to tell those Judaizers that Timothy was no less saved before (and no more saved after) what he referred to as “the mutilation” (Philippians 3:2). In fact, after he did that, what did he write to the Galatians? He asked them how they could be so foolish as to go back to the Law. Which is why he called the circumcision by which he circumcised Timothy “mutilation.” He didn’t laughingly engage this culture. He used this incident to show them how foolish they had become. In fact, wherever he was, he addressed that culture in a way that would show God’s condemnation of sin.

I have become all things to all men. Didn’t Paul write these words just a few pages prior–“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1st Corinthians 6:9-10)? So why would he then condone living and talking like those who would not inherit the kingdom? Why would James write that “friendship with the world is enmity against God” (James 4:4)? Why would Peter exhort us to “be holy even as [He] is holy” (1st peter 1:16)? Why would these holy men, being moved by the Holy Spirit, write all these words condemning mixing the holy with the profane (Leviticus 10:10)–if we are supposed to pollute the pulpit with “foolish talk”? And, by the way, “foolish talk” in Ephesians 5:4? The Greek is morologia. From moros (foolish, empty) and lego (speak). Guess what word we get from moros? I’ll give you a hint: take off the “s” and put an “n” at the end.

So, as you can see, mark Driscoll is ignoring the commands of Scripture to refrain from speaking in a way that brings reproach upon the pulpit. He is ignoring the admonition of James to “tame the tongue” (James 3:5-8). He is being conformed to this world, and has shown no desire to be separate from it.


PS–How is it people can talk to their children about sex without using crude and vulgar language, yet they don’t think a preacher can speak on a book like Song of Solomon without resorting to foolish talk and filthy jesting?

8 thoughts on ““Has anyone ever contacted Mark Driscoll privately?”

  1. Fourpointer, thank you for this absolutely clear, biblical presentation speaking out against profanity and filth in the pulpit!! May the Lord God be praised! I am also grateful to Phil Johnson, and Dr. MacArthur, who God has used to bless me time and time again.
    p.s.- I hope Ingrid gets an opportunity to read this post as well! She has been speaking out against this man’s potty mouth for a bit now.


  2. Hi Phil,

    Thank you for attempting to connect with Mark. It would be helpful to mention the attempt and how you feel the response worked out as a preface to future comments about Mark’s failures in this area.

    For your part – do you label everyone who who has listened to someone you think has a flawed message an “-ite” . You seem to be very offended that you would be asked if you are following Scriptural principles when publicly rebuking a fellow believer.

    I think the question at the root of it is do you desire to see Mark correct what he is doing wrong and be made better or do you desire to just point out error.

    To seek to really help someone is a lot more trouble than to just warn people not to listen. If Mark has not made a good faith response to you the elders of his church are the next line of authority in his life. If they fail to see the problems and correct them, then approaching people like DA Carson, and John Piper and asking them to consider the issues and attempt to move Mark away language and illustrations that are not proper or helpful.

    Lots of people are listening to Mark and they will likely not be warned off very easily. Would it not be worth wild to see Marks approach improved and made more effective?

    If Mark and or his elders will not seriously respond to concerns and Carson and Piper could have not influence or would claim there is nothing to correct then there would be no resort but to long and clear denouncements.

    Does what I have written make me a “Driscollite”?

    Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Gal 6:1

    Have I done injury to this verse and wrenched it from it’s context?


  3. I thank you for this post also. I tried contacting Driscoll through his website with no success either. Why is he so elusive if he is 100% innocent ? surely he would be more than happy to defend his actions/words ?

    I agree with Phil Johnson its time he stood down.

    – dale


  4. Ed,

    I’m not Phil. I simply posted what Phil wrote at his blog.

    In response to your point that, I think the question at the root of it is do you desire to see Mark correct what he is doing wrong and be made better or do you desire to just point out error…Lots of people are listening to Mark and they will likely not be warned off very easily. Would it not be worth wild to see Mark’s approach improved and made more effective?

    Absolutely! Imagine how much more effective he could be if he would tone down his tongue, and teach the young men who respect him so much how to do the same, and to live a life of holiness and sanctification from the world! When the world hears a man like Driscoll use gutter talk when attempting to preach the holy word of God, they get the idea that that kind of language is OK, even though God tells us to avoid such talk. I would like nothing more than to see Mark Driscoll change the way he speaks, and become a much more effective communicator of the Word. And yes, it can be done.

    If Mark has not made a good faith response to you the elders of his church are the next line of authority in his life. If they fail to see the problems and correct them, then approaching people like DA Carson, and John Piper and asking them to consider the issues…

    Knowing the knid of men Johnson and MacArthur are, and knowing their relationships with men like Piper and Carson, they most likely did. Not that contacting Mars Hill would have had any effect. One of the commenters on the original post has tried to contact Mars Hill regarding this issue:

    FWIW, I attempt to vet some things for accuracy and charity through Mars Hill before I did a presentation to our students on the emerging church conversation. of which Driscoll is an admitted part, only to have not even recieved the courtesy of a return phone call from an administrative assistant despite several phone messages.

    As far as “what is a ‘Driscollite'”? That would be one who calls us “fundies” (or some other pejorative) when we desire to see holiness and sanctification in the pulpit.


  5. Thanks for this post.

    I find it shameful that people do not seem to want pastors like Driscoll to step up a notch and be more Christ-like in their actions and teachings.


  6. Please keep in mind that Mark heads a church of approximately 8000 (average weekly attendance varies) and get a lot of “personal messages”. It is a bit rediculous to simply assume that he will reply to each one.

    Mark is certainly not perfect. Often I catch small flaws in his logic or verses taken a bit out of context. That said, I would approximate that he is very solid the vast majority of the time. Even when I do find minor flaws in the arguement, I generally agree with the conclusion. As with any preacher, you must practice descernment. No preacher is perfect, not Mark, not John MacArthur, not James Dobson, noone (except the Lord of course).


  7. No one is talking about perfection here, this man has been make aware of his vulgarity and has refused to repent of this. The word of God is crystal clear on profanity and dirty talk, from Colossians 3:8,’But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.’
    It is never wise to side with someone who refuses to repent and strive for holiness, it is never wise to follow mortal men. We must first and foremost follow Christ and uphold His word, every jot, every tittle of it…NO EXCEPTIONS!!

    I have not heard John MacArthur use vulgarity ever in his preaching/teaching of God’s Holy Word. Those who preach the word of God should have reverence for that word, they should tremble with fear at the task they’ve been given. It is one that will be judged more strictly than you or me. God takes the preaching of His word with great seriousness, there is no room or tolerance by the Most High God when it comes to proclaiming His truth. He will NOT stand for it, and neither should we. To veer off-course just a hair is to possibly cause someone to stumble, if that is the case, how dreadful it will be for the one who causes the stumbling!
    The lack of respect for the word of God results in men taking it in a flippant manner, making light of it, adding to and taking away from it… woe to all who do so.


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