Mark Driscoll is no accident

If you haven’t heard what is going on at Mars Hill church in Seattle, a long history of abuse is coming to a head in just the last few weeks and months. People are finally standing up for what is right, even if some of it isn’t going quite how I would like. Still, as someone hurt by people who looked up to Mark Driscoll and emulated some of his behavior, this is something of a symbolic victory. I hope that people who support — or even once supported — Driscoll will take this as a time to reflect on their own actions.

In the spirit of reflection, allow me to make a suggestion: Mark Driscoll is not an accident. This would be very convenient if it were so, if Driscoll were a weird hiccup in the evangelical world where one pastor went power-mad and made some bad decisions. Then, by kicking him out of his position, we could rest easy, and our work here would be done.

But no, this is no accident. Driscoll is a product of a corrupt culture, not the other way around. Let’s look at another case study to see why that is by examining the kind of horrific logic a white supremacist would use to justify violence and abuse:

1. The highest good for man is for the superior white race to have political power and for their values to be enshrined in law.
2. There are people who would try to make whites share power with people of other races.
3. Therefore, there are people who would try to undermine what is good.
4. One is justified in taking action that promotes the highest good.
5. Therefore, one is justified in preventing others from making whites share their power with other races.

Outside a few fringe readers, I’m sure we can all agree that this kind of thinking is horribly evil, but it happens. The logic itself is valid in the sense that, if the premises were true, the conclusions would follow, but the problem is that white supremacists have bad values. They have a corrupt sense of what is good, and this justifies their horrible actions.

It is no great stretch to suggest that the same thing is happening here, and the problem may actually hit closer to home than many are willing to admit. Consider a similar syllogism:

1. The highest good for man is for people to go to Heaven to be with God.
2. To go to Heaven, one must adopt Christian beliefs and practices (caveat for the “faith alone” crowd: the assumption is that true faith will produce action, per the book of James).
3. There are people who undermine Christian belief and practice.
4. One is justified in taking action that promotes the highest good.
5. Therefore, one is justified in preventing people from taking action that would keep people from going to Heaven.

I am assuming a lot of you don’t see the problem with this logic. And, if you start looking for a problem, let me assure you that the logic is valid, so the question is this: which premise do you throw out? Which of them isn’t true? The best candidates are 1, 2, and 4, because 3 is obviously true. A lot of Christians are also going to want to uphold 1 and 2, so naturally they would attack 4. But how is one justified if not in taking action that promotes the highest good? What kind of actions are good but those that produce goodness? 4 is, by my count, trivially true.

Many of you reading this should feel very uncomfortable right now, because if there is a problem with the logic, then we would need to throw out a premise which someone like Mark Driscoll would consider to be an unquestionable part of Christian orthodoxy. And if you look at Driscoll’s rhetoric in his attempt to account for his mistakes, you see him talking extensively about both premise 1 and 2: he has done sooooo much to guide people to God by persuading them to enter the faith! And what’s more, if you really think about it, all of the actions Mark has taken — the ones for which he now stands accused — are more or less in service to helping people go to Heaven by converting them to Christianity. The bullying, the manipulation, etc.: all of that is fairly justifiable if it sends more people to Heaven. He’s just being a good servant.

It is no wonder Mark has such a difficult time understanding what he has done wrong. He might have been loud, crude, or rude, but it was all in service of the Gospel — it produced results. It sent people to Heaven. And so he talks about wanting to be more of a fatherly figure, because he thinks his tone is the problem. Hint: it’s not. It’s really not. There is plenty of room for loud, crude people in this world. The problem is right there in the logic, but is it 1 or 2? Or is it both?

Let me offer you a familiar parable.

A man lay injured on the side of the road. A drunk man had struck him unknowingly as he sped down the highway. Another man, a pastor, saw the injured man, but, thinking that this wasn’t his problem, left the man and continued down the road. An evangelist, too, saw the man, but he had a conference to go to, and he didn’t want to be late. An atheist, though, saw the man, took pity on him, and brought him in for medical treatment. The injured man being homeless, the atheist used her money to cover his medical bills.

Which of these three — the pastor, the evangelist, or the atheist — had goodness in their hearts? Which of them acted righteously? Let the answer to this parable tell you why Mark Driscoll is the result of a much bigger problem. You will have to discard one of the premises which you hold dear. Let me submit this much: to the extent which you do not act as Mark Driscoll did, you are persuaded by your better nature to be inconsistent with what you say you value.

To him who has an ear, let him hear!


About Chris Attaway

Raised in the digital wilderness of the pre-Internet 2.0 era, Chris Attaway is a true gamer and Internet citizen. After a stint studying computer science, his life got flipped turned upside down, and he ended up studying philosophy to help him sort out his life. Now the black sheep in a family of engineers, he has set out to get his footing in the world of freelance journalism. With interests ranging from gaming and technology to LGBT rights, race and politics, Chris is a diverse and skilled writer who always tries to give a fair shake to his subjects.
This entry was posted in Christian Culture Issues, Ethics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Mark Driscoll is no accident

  1. Saif Ibn Muneer al Barazani says:

    Dearest Chris,

    Why do you continue to rave about this man who has charmed many an audience. Perhaps some Xanax is in your future.

    By Allah I am having a hard time understanding your argument. It is disallowed to say that one should not fear God, who made heaven and earth.

    What is the connection between that series of logical points and the actions of Rev. Driscoll? Surely there is none.

    Allow me to introduce a counter example

    1. All goat cheese is tasty.
    2. To obtain said cheese, then goats must be milked.
    3. There are miscreants who might be inclined to steal the aforementioned goats. (May Allah disgrace them)
    4. One is thus justified in doing anything possible in order to preserve sad flock of goats.
    5. Therefore Mark Driscoll should not resign from Mars hill church since he has not advocated goat stealing.

    Clearly, if one loves goat cheese, it is virtually inescapable that he would not see the clear reasoning behind this call for Mark Driscoll to be shamed in public.

    Surely the breath of wisdom is beneath the swords of truth,


    • So the only reason Driscoll is relevant at all is because he is, for the evangelical world, something of a test case, though he could potentially be either a scapegoat or a foreboding example. Now while I don’t consider myself evangelical anymore, I do think what happens here is important for the church in general, because it shows that what we value will influence our actions.

  2. David Wallace says:

    Many don’t really believe “saving the lost sheep” is the “highest good for man(kind)”. They just like those who do. Can we find a better “saving” for ourselves and others in the example and teachings of Jesus?

  3. David Wallace says:

    YES! Thanks for the amazing (revised) parable . What can we do?

  4. Change premise number one. We are told again and again in the gospels that we are to love one another; by this they will see Jesus. Our end-game isn’t to get to heaven. Our end-game is that the world sees and knows Jesus. That we lift His name high above our own. That we bring glory to God the father. We can’t control who does or doesn’t get to heaven (unless I suppose we resort to bullying and manipulation) but we sure can control who and how we love. That is what we need to do and that is what needs to be the foundation for the church.

  5. braudcj says:

    Chris, how would the view of evil as a distortion of good fit your argument? If “doing evil” is a matter of seeking some good in the wrong way, then it is certainly possible for people to seek the highest good in a wrong way and therefore still do wrong. For example, one might say it is good to teach your children self-sufficiency. But dropping them off in the woods with nothing but a hunting knife and one match for a month would be a wrong way of seeking an otherwise good end. Similarly, bringing all persons freely to God can be the highest good sought in a wrong way if you promote it by imprisoning anyone who makes the goal difficult.

    • Heaven is such an overwhelmingly positive goal that there are very few things that would not be justifiable for the sake of it under this framework. I’ll have another post covering this hopefully later this week.

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