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Al Mohler on Mark Driscoll
December 28, 2011
At this year’s Expositor’s Conference there was a Q&A session in which a concerned pastor asked Al Mohler about the influence of Mark Driscoll. Mohler’s answer was winsome and helpful. He helpfully balanced being encouraged that Driscoll is preaching the gospel while at the same time expressing concern at some of his emphases. As he says, we ought to be able to be grown ups about this issue and other similar ones. There is no good reason that we can’t discuss this winsomely and with discernment.
Here is a transcription of that part of the Q&A; if you’d rather listen, click here. (Note: This happened in October, long before the book Real Marriage, so do not take this as Mohler’s reaction to that book)
Question: I work with college students, mostly leading them to Christ and discipling them, and one of the big influences they have in their life right now is pastor Mark Driscoll and the ministry that he’s doing. I’d just like to hear from you just what you feel like to be some effects of sitting under him on YouTube or from his website, what kind of things that I need to be prepared for just ministering to young college students just listening to his teaching?
Mohler: You had a better question? [laughs] I told you it’s dangerous to turn left. It never works, just take that as a parable. Now I appreciate the question and I’m not going to dodge it. Here’s the thing—we ought to be grown ups, we can talk about these things, we want, together, to be a company of discerning men and we want to think about these things.
One of the things that we need to say, first of all, is that, wherever the gospel is to be found we need to be happy about that. And I’m thankful that Mark Driscoll believes in, teaches and preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ. I appreciate and admire his boldness and his tenacity, being in a very secular place for a long period of years to preach with such boldness the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel has implications. Pastor Driscoll and I would not agree on all those implications. I have great concerns about what I would consider to be excessive contextualization. Now I do think we need to acknowledge that all of us contextualize. I’m not here in pajamas. There’s a certain contextualization that is taking place here. I’m using the English language; if I came here speaking German, Helmut and Helga in the back would appreciate that greatly but the rest of you would probably be left out of the conversation. So, in other words, we’re always about some kind of contextualization and actually the most dangerous contextualization are things we do not think about. It’s the subconscious contextualization.
I am concerned about contextualization when it comes to, say, to reach a secular society you have to be crude, you have to be, because there’s a difference between being crude and being simple, okay. There’s also a difference between being crude and being candid. I think there’s some things, gospel ministers, actually don’t ever have to talk about, ever, because they’re simply not on the screen of a gospel application. That means an application of the gospel, not an application to be a Christian. I have to watch what I’m saying here. They’re simply not there. I think there are other things that should never be talked about in the full congregation. There are times when the men in the church need to get aside and talk about certain things that only men need to talk about and likewise women, talk about only things women need to talk about. There is a respect for modesty of gender in the New Testament that has to do with leadership, it has to do with older women counseling and teaching younger women. There is also a need in the church at times for there to be an age discrimination. There are things adults need to talk about that parents need to talk about, that children, and for that matter middle schoolers and teenagers don’t need to be a part of. There’s a matter of discernment there.
I want to say there are certain things that pastor Driscoll speaks about that I would never speak to anyone about, honestly. I just don’t think it’s the responsibility of a gospel pastor to even have to talk about some of those things—some of the things that would get the most traction on YouTube or things that we need to let somebody else talk about if it’s going to be talked about. And then there are things that you can talk about in a certain way, I’ll just be honest, I rejoice in his teaching of the gospel, I’m thankful for his conviction, but I would certainly not feel comfortable speaking in the same way, nor would I want my students to do that. I think if they did we’d have a pretty stern conversation.
I think there are other things where people find offense where they might not find offense if they were there and understood that something had happened or something had to be discussed. But, you know, all that to say, YouTube is a bad place to go to church. I’m very thankful for the technological revolution that’s made so much accessible. There’s no excuse, we were just talking, there’s no excuse for not hearing Biblical preaching. You think, John MacArthur just gave everything away, thousands of sermons, just there on Grace to You, you can find them. You can find many faithful preachers whose materials are there. Go to Ligonier, go elsewhere, I mean there is just tons of wonderful stuff, rivers of health. But it’s a lousy place to go if you’re not discerning and if you just go for hero worship, and are just looking, saying “I want to do, this guy is cool I want to be like him.” And in his better moments I’m sure Mark Driscoll would say “That’s not what anyone needs to do. And you need me to say that’s not what anyone needs to do concerning me. Judge me by Christ, by the Scriptures and take whatever you can learn from me and leave whatever you need not to learn from me.”
I hope that makes some sense. And I will tell you, college students are listening to it. And a whole lot rather than me listening to Mark Driscoll than Joel Osteen. [laughter] It’s so tempting, I’m not going there, alright. But at the same time you want them to learn discernment and we need to be able to say we can learn from people with whom we have radical disagreements on the implications of the gospel. That’s different than having radical disagreements about the gospel. But, we need to be grown up so we can talk about these things and hopefully you will have influence … you will have influence on those students to say “Here, let’s exalt in the gospel, wherever the gospel is preached. Let’s give thanks.” But we need to have, and this is a very important issue, I preached in chapel a message on this and used myself as an example in an attempt to make clear the issue. We need to have more Priscillas and Aquillas that take Apollos aside and explain to him his errors, in order that he can be more faithful in ministry. There have been persons with crucial issues in my life who have done that, who have corrected errors in me, in order that I would be more faithful. We need that to be a more natural part of the life of the church, especially where there are opportunities to be a friend in word as well as in deed. Thank you.