I was recently listening to Justin Brierley’s interview of Christian pastor Mark Driscoll. I realize that this is old news, since the program Unbelievable featured the interview on January 14, 2012. But I usually get to things long after they’ve made their splash!
To be honest with you, I didn’t have much of a problem with what Driscoll was saying, until the end of the program. Then, I couldn’t stand what he was saying. Up to that point, he sounded pretty reasonable to me, at least overall. His statement that husbands and wives should both work on being attractive to one another struck me as common sense. In response to Justin’s question of whether or not his approach caters to certain kinds of men while excluding the artsy, intellectual types, Driscoll noted that his ministry was thriving in Seattle, which is an artsy, intellectual area. Driscoll also seemed to be trying to dispel any notion that he continually gets behind the pulpit saying extreme things, for he said that his sermons mostly go through the Bible. I can somewhat testify that this is the case (or might be the case), for I remember visiting Driscoll’s web site to listen to his sermons. I had just seen YouTube clips of him criticizing The Shack and Joel Osteen, and I was expecting to see more of that sort of thing. Instead, I saw Mark Driscoll talking about the Gospel of Luke, and what he was saying wasn’t particularly extreme.
Near the end of Justin’s interview, however, Driscoll was getting confrontational, in response to what he believed was Justin’s confrontational interview-style. Driscoll grilled Justin on the church where Justin’s wife is a pastor, asking how many single young men have come to Christ there. Driscoll inquired if they were “strong” men. Whereas earlier in the interview Driscoll seemed to be open to including the artsy, intellectual types, now he appeared to be implying that churches should cater to a specific type of male. Driscoll asked Justin if Justin believed in conscious, eternal torment in hell. Driscoll was saying that a no answer presents God as a mother-like figure, whereas a yes answer would portray God as a tough, protecting father. When Justin responded that he believes in annihilationism, Driscoll accused Justin of being timid and weak in terms of standing up for the truth.
I was disgusted by what Driscoll was saying in those last few minutes of the interview. For one, while I sympathize with Driscoll’s burden to reach out to certain kinds of men—-the tough, strong types—-I question whether the church should cater specifically to them, and not to others. Driscoll may deny that he wants to do that—-I don’t know—-but he seemed in those last few minutes of the interview to be implying that the church should be presenting a tough Daddy-God, as opposed to a soft, accepting Mommy-God.
Second, why is Justin’s belief in annihilationism a sign of timidity? Timidity is being afraid to stand up for one’s beliefs, not failure to stand up for beliefs that one does not even hold. Maybe Justin is not standing up boldly for conscious eternal torment because he does not believe in it (and who can blame him, since it is a disgusting, revolting doctrine?), not because he is timid.
Third, how exactly does the notion of eternal torment in hell, depict God as a protecting, tough-but-fair father? How many tough-but-fair fathers would torment people for all eternity, if they had a chance? Eternal torment is neither tough in a disciplinary sense (since it is not disciplinary but retributive, and it leaves no possibility for the condemned to repent in the afterlife), nor does it strike me as particularly fair.
The contrast between the fair-minded, reasonable, more inclusive Mark Driscoll throughout much of the interview, and the guy who showed up near the interview’s end, makes me wonder which is the real Mark Driscoll. And is our real self when we are being reasonable, or when we’re expressing our impressions? Or is our real self a combination of the two?