Once again there’s a lot of ink being spilled in the blogosphere (not literally, of course) over Mark Driscoll. His new book Vintage Jesus comes out next week, and advance reviews are coming out this week. As is usually the case with Driscoll, a common reaction is that most of the content of the book is good, but some of Driscoll’s provocative– even off-color– statements cross the line between what’s appropriate and what’s not. Here’s the most popular example:
Jesus’ mom was a poor, unwed teenage girl who was mocked for claiming she conceived via the Holy Spirit. Most people thought she concocted a crazy story to cover the “fact” that she was knocking boots with some guy in the backseat of a car at the prom.
This is the kind of thing that makes some people think Driscoll is the greatest thing since Bono and some people think he’s the Antichrist. (Of course, some people like Tim Challies are in between.) I myself like his stuff a lot, although he regularly says things I wouldn’t say and occasionally says things I wish he wouldn’t.
This is where Rush Limbaugh comes in. Rush, although many of his detractors would disagree, is a very smart guy. He has a great understanding of conservative principles and is very good at explaining them on the popular level. He’s also an entertainer, which is why about every other thing he says is something like “half my brain tied behind my back just to make it fair.” With Rush, I figure you get about 50% thoughtful analysis and 50% obnoxious smoke-blowing. But the thoughtful analysis is there, make no mistake about it.
Driscoll is similar. But I actually think he’s a lot better. Don’t be fooled by the macho/hip exterior– Driscoll has a degree in philosophy, is a voracious reader, and is basically wicked smaht. He also loves Jesus. A lot. He loves the Bible a lot, loves good theology a lot. He consistently takes all kinds of solid Biblical stands that are incredibly unpopular, like the substitutionary death of Christ, God’s sovereignty in salvation, the importance of the local church, even the importance of God-given gender distinctions. And he does this in Seattle, a city that, he frequently remarks, has “more dogs than evangelical Christians.” So there’s a lot of content there. He is also an entertainer. He is funny and provocative, and he uses those traits in his preaching and writing. I’m sure part of this is just his personality and part of it is a deliberate effort to reach out to the young urban crowd he’s trying to impact.
Sometimes in the effort to make a point dramatically or get a laugh, he says things that I think are inappropriate. It could be, as the anti-Driscoll bloggers suggest, that this is because he has no concept of the holiness of God and the importance of the preacher’s task. But seriously, read his books or listen to a few sermons and I think you’ll see that’s not the case. If Rush is 50/50, Driscoll is at least 80/20 on the side of solid biblical content. So even if you do roll your eyes or cringe occasionally, it’s worth it for the good stuff, and for the impact he’s having in places where nice preachers with ties don’t even typically go.
So as if anyone cares, I’m happy to take sides with the Driscoll defenders. Sometimes I do think he’s over the top– so does he; he’s made public apologies. But almost all the time, he’s simply a great communicator of the truth of the Gospel, someone God is using mightily to raise up worshipers of Jesus.
And maybe, since I’m a sinner too, I just delight in the torment he brings to some people who take themselves way too seriously.