Mark Driscoll had a rough summer.
Believe me when I say that one of the last things I want is to add to the cacophony of evangelical vitriol that gets tossed around the internet these days. And I definitely do not want to pile on a man when he’s down. But there is something here, something that is beyond a struggling pastor, something that speaks to the way we all live.
If you’re not familiar with Driscoll, he’s the lead pastor of the Mars Hill Church in Seattle. In recent months, he has come under fire from charges of plagiarism and misuse of church funds to get his book on bestseller lists. Former employees of Mars Hill have also accused Driscoll (and others) of psychological abuse and intimidation.
Controversy is nothing new to Driscoll. For years his brash style has been fodder for critics. His authoritarian leadership style over his church, his teachings on gender and sexuality, his support of a machismo-colored Christianity and his disparaging language have often put him in hot water. He’s had to apologize for a quite a lot over the years.
As much as I disagree with his methods and deplore some of (ok, A LOT of) the things he has said, I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of his apologies. I think he has realized he’s hurt people and has displayed penitence. But people question why he consistently finds himself in these situations.
The reason is pretty simple: Our theology affects our living.
You see, this is not about simple behavioral mistakes. This is more than lapses in judgement or honest missteps. Those types of things are easily corrected.
No, this is a pattern that has deeper roots.
The reason Mark Driscoll continually shows a pattern of abusive behavior, scorns women, bullies people with opposing opinions and displays misogynistic attitudes is because that’s the way he believes God treats people. He believes God rules with an iron fist and disregards those in opposition. He’s a bully because he sees God as a bully.
He’s not struggling with bad behavior; he’s struggling with bad theology.
That’s why this question that Jesus asks in Matthew 16 is so powerful. When he asks his apostles “But who do you say I am?“, he’s asking for more than an intellectual hypothesis. Because he knows that their answer to that question will affect not just their thoughts, but radiate out in their words and their actions.
Trevor mentioned a famous quote by theologian A. W. Tozer the other day: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” This may be one of the truest statements I have ever read.
If we believe that God is a misogynist, we will display misogyny. If we believe God rules with power and authority, we will pursue the same. If we think God values both women and men, then we will seek to honor both genders.
And if we see a God who humbles himself by taking human form, who welcomes outsiders and children and Samaritan women and lepers and tax collectors, who laid down his life as a servant, who washed feet rather than demanding homage as a dictator, then we will try to show humility and grace to one another without regard for gender, race or social status.
Our theology – what we think about God – affects our attitudes, our words and our actions.
Mark Driscoll doesn’t need another opportunity to apologize. He needs a chance to reexamine his beliefs on who God is.
So today may we all take a hard look at Jesus. May we see the ways he talked and moved and treated those around him. May we see his attitude and his values.
And may our words and actions be shaped by who we believe him to be.
[Update: David Hayward wrote something very similar a few days ago. Plus he has a great cartoon to illustrate, which is awesome. Go check it out.]