Doodle: Driscoll, Perilous Negativism, and the Apostle Paul

Mark DriscollReading through 1 and 2 Timothy recently, it interested me that Paul does not instruct his deputy to adopt a purely combative approach to the false teachers who had crept into the church. Timothy is undoubtedly charged to refute and rebuke those opposed to the truth of Christ. But along with this negative treatment of heresy, he is called to the more positive avenue of modelling Christian life and doctrine; and it seems that there is also prudence in passivity. Notwithstanding the need for correction and a defence of the apostolic gospel, at points in the letter, Paul encourages Timothy to simply get on with his task of teaching true doctrine and modelling godliness.

Timothy is warned about becoming enwrapped with the myths, genealogies and speculative theology that was bandied by the local heretics (1 Timothy 4:7; 2 Timothy 2:16). Challenging the false teachers was a necessary role Timothy would have to undertake yet it would not excuse him becoming quarrelsome and drawn to controversy (1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 2:23-24). The aim of his charge was rather this: “love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). It has never been easier than it is in the digital age to voice disapproval and vitriolic disagreement. So we must genuinely consider these warnings from Paul: becoming drawn to quarrels; and issuing correction from presumptuous certainty rather than loving sincerity.

It is with the above in mind that I want to address the current maelstrom that has engulfed Mark Driscoll. Countless posts have been thrown together and dispatched to the four corners of the Internet; the smug glee of many is ostentatiously worn all over their digital profiles; and every other Christian blogger feels the need to remind us that they saw the signs, of the end of the age. But why are we so captivated by his tragic fall? Why do we feel the need to retweet every scrap of evidence and interview decrying Driscoll? What might excuse our fascination with this bright career that seems to be speedily approaching a catastrophic crash? As Paul told Timothy, we need to be aware of an unhealthy fixation on controversy; the need to highlight Driscoll’s numerous (and now well catalogued) shortcomings; and the uncontained pleasure that has some dancing on the ashes.

D. A. CarsonListen to the unsettling words of D. A. Carson, in Exegetical Fallacies: “Persistent negativism is spiritually perilous. The person who makes it his life’s ambition to discover all the things that are wrong…is exposing himself to spiritual destruction.” He goes on to say that persistent negativism will first uproot gratitude towards God, as well as trust in his sovereign protection and purpose for the bad things that happen, and then it will supplant humility with conceit, “As the critic, deeply knowledgeable about faults and fallacies (especially those of others!), comes to feel superior to those whom he criticises. Spiritual one-upmanship is not a Christian virtue.”

Graham Heslop
I have an insatiable appetite for books, occasionaly dip into theology and am presently serving full time at Christ Church Umhlanga in Durban. Most often found on the beach, a soccer field, or my couch
  • Stephen Murray

    I can’t speak on behalf of the whole internet. But I do know that some writers/bloggers highlighted all the gritty details of the happenings at Mars Hill in hoping that by highlighting it all, action (like we’ve now seen from Acts29) would be taken. I have no doubt many are just touting a “told you so” line, but we mustn’t forget that there are many people involved here – and particularly people who appear to have been on the wrong end of spiritual abuse at Mars Hill. Those people need a voice and I’m sure would welcome other voices joining theirs. I take no delight at all in this whole fiasco – it makes me seriously miserable the more I think about it – but the spiritual abuse of individuals in the congregation concerns me more.

    • Thanks for your comment Stephen. I agree. I guess my point was to warn us against a few things, since we can’t know the hearts of others who have written at length about Driscoll’s numerous failings: an overly critical spirit is always crouching at the door, desiring to master us; without forgetting the many who have suffered spiritual abuses at Mars Hill, perhaps even some ‘belonging’ to Mars Hill Global, many of the commentators and bloggers are armchair generals with no direct involvement or concern, except for what’s gain from joining the mob; and there is a dangerous and conceited pride to be avoided in any correction and controversy, we would do well to cultivate a distaste for such things

      • Jordan Pickering

        I haven’t really followed this whole situation, but I did read one ‘open letter’ to MD in which a former employee suddenly ‘found the courage’ to join the bandwagon in airing all of the one-sided dirty laundry that he could think of. Hundreds of readers congratulated him for being so honest. I thought it was unbiblical, divisive and gross. I don’t think having a voice is important unless it’s good for the gospel, and I don’t think pouring fuel on the fire helps anyone to be more godly in leading and following.

        The church discipline stuff in Matthew and elsewhere in the NT doesn’t have ‘If he won’t listen to the elders, slander him on the Internet to make yourself feel better’ as the last step.

  • If I had written this post a few days later, after starting Francis Schaeffer’s True Spirituality, I would most definitely have woven his treatment of covetousness in. Whether you agree with Schaeffer’s point or not – that the 10th word of the Decalogue is the underpinning commandment, always violated before any of the others – his treatment of the 10th word and how it is internally broken both vertically (discontentment with God) and horizontally (envy towards people) is very insightful, and relevant to my post:
    “Natural desires have become coveting against a fellow…man, when we have a mentality that would give us secret satisfaction at his misfortune…We must all admit that even when we get on in our Christian life, even in these areas where we say we are longing for the Church of Jesus Christ to be more alive in our generation, often we have this awful secret satisfaction at the loss of other men”.

    • Towards the end of his work, Schaeffer returns to this point:
      “Each time I see something wrong in others, it is dangerous, for it can exalt self…So when I am right, I can be wrong…It is not wrong to be right, but it is wrong to have the wrong attitude in being right.” That we should love our neighbours as ourselves remains true even if a man is desperately wrong for, “When 1 Corinthians 13 says, “Love rejoices not in iniquity,” it means exactly what it says. When we find another man to be wrong, we are not to rejoice in his iniquity. And how careful I must be, every time I see a situation where I am right and another man is wrong, not to use it as an excuse to scramble into a superior position over that man”.

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