Pastor Mark Driscoll says he's sorry for inappropriate comments made under a pseudonym in 2000. Here's why Christians should accept his apology.

Pastor Mark Driscoll says he’s sorry for inappropriate comments made under a pseudonym in 2000. Here’s why Christians should accept his apology. (Photo courtesy: Resurgence Conference 2013)

Well, we’ve just concluded another week in American evangelicalism. Which is to say, we’ve witnessed another Mark Driscoll blunder.

This has for sure been a rough year for the Seattle-based mega-church preacher. He was accused of plagiarizing in multiple books, which resulted in a tepid but public apology. He embarrassed himself by crashing a conference hosted by another pastor, John MacArthur. And former staff and church members spoke out about the oppressive environment at Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church. These gaffes join a legion of others. After the flood of criticism he received, Driscoll quit social media and has retreated from the public eye.

But another shoe dropped last week when Christian author Matthew Paul Turner posted a series of discussion board comments by Driscoll under the alias “William Wallace II” in 2000. Driscoll’s opinions, though 14 years old, were nothing short of vile. In addition to being expletive-laden, they were misogynistic and homophobic (and I do not use either term lightly).

In response to the furor his comments created, Pastor Driscoll apologized yet again, saying his statements were “plain wrong” and he “remains embarrassed” by them. His apology was predictably rejected by the growing gaggle of Driscoll critics, a group that has become evermore vampirical in their thirst for Driscoll’s blood. But I accept Driscoll’s apology and other Christians should too.

I’m reminded of an occasion where the the saltiest and stubbornest disciple, Peter, asked Jesus a most pointed question: “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered Peter, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.”

Any New Testament scholar can tell you that Jesus was not merely upping the limit of times one must accept the apologies of a repeat offender. He was not saying that on the 491st offense, we are free to toss our brother or sister overboard and pray for a shark attack. No, Jesus was obliterating the ceiling on Christian forgiveness.

The way of Jesus is not the most practical, desired, or cathartic path. But it is an endlessly forgiving one.

Some reading this will be flabbergasted that I would accept the apology of a serial abuser like Mark Driscoll. Save your fury for someone without my publishing history. I have more than a dozen articles reporting and commenting on the deplorable actions of Mark Driscoll in the last year alone. So type your little heart out in the comment section. I won’t read it.

When Christians have grown so bitter toward someone that we can’t even accept their apologies, something has gone seriously wrong. If Driscoll had ignored these comments, his critics would have excoriated him for his silence. But when he says he is sorry, they criticize him still. We must refuse to create lose-lose situations for each other where one is damned if they apologize and damned if they don’t.

Let me be clear: Accepting Driscoll’s apology does not mean we excuse his reprehensible actions in the past, fail to call him to better behavior in the present, or ignore future abuses if (or when) they occur.

I hope that Mark is genuinely trying to carve a different path for himself. One that is isn’t so angry and arrogant, sex-obsessed and sexist, dishonest and defensive. I hope that his recent actions signal a change in course. A change, that is, because I don’t expect a total and immediate about-face—sanctification is a slow, chipping away after all.

Some have said that he needs to be publicly shamed. Mark Driscoll has heaped shame on many, and now his critics apparently want to return the favor. Apparently, that whole “do not repay evil with evil” thing doesn’t apply to us and that “love your enemies” bit was just Jesus being cheeky.

Others claim Mark must resign as pastor of Mars Hill Church. I agree this is probably best. Not because he needs to pay for past sins, but rather because his pattern of behavior indicates to me that he should spend time with some wise counselors who can help him sort through whatever he’s spent his life inappropriately processing.

But demanding accountability and reconciliation is a far cry from rejecting one’s apology.

Oh, how I wish we could conjure the spirit of the late Brennan Manning. We need him now more than ever. As Manning reminded us in his final book, grace is for…

The inmate who promised the parole board he’d be good, but he wasn’t…

The dim-eyed who showed the path to others but kept losing his way…

The liar, the tramp, the thief; otherwise known as the priest, speaker, and author…

The disciple whose cheese slid off the cracker so many times he said ‘to hell with cheese ‘n’ crackers’…

The younger and elder prodigals who’ve come to their senses again, and again, and again, and again…

This means that there must be grace for the abused and the abuser, for the oppressed and the oppressor, for Mark Driscoll and for all those he has hurt. If we Christians have now arrived at a point where grace has run dry or is only available to some, let us abandon this whole Jesus way and join those who have no hope.

I’m a tough critic–perhaps too tough on occasion. But this situation has reminded me that the Christian community must be as generous with the salve of forgiveness as we are with the acid of criticism. If we can learn this, we will take a step closer to walking as Jesus did. And maybe then we can, with the dearly departed Brennan Manning, dare to whisper the ragamuffin’s rumor:

ALL. IS. GRACE.

172 Comments

  1. This isn’t accepting an apology, it’s an attempt to gain readers with a salacious and counter-intuitive headline. Or put another way: This article is clickbait.

    First of all why does Jonathan Merritt need to accept Mark Driscoll’s apology? I didn’t read anythting in this article about how Driscoll sinned against Merritt.

    Secondly you can’t say you “forgive” Driscoll and then call him a “serial abuser” and joke that another week of Christian culture is another “Driscoll blunder.” That’s not forgiveness, it’s bitterness and a rejection of the apology.

    This is an article of which Jesus would be deeply ashamed. It just bothers me to know neither Merritt nor RNS feel the same way.

    • “This is an article of which Jesus would be deeply ashamed.”

      Wow, hyperbole much?

      This is what is called “lesser known blogger harassing a blogger with more influence to get more site hits”. And, in an ironic twist, your comment is a very driscollian thing to say.

      • Jesus is a fan
        Of judging people harshly – fyi.

        “…But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace.” (Matt 10:13)

        the trouble is, he speaks out of both sides of his mouth.

        “forgive not 7 times but 7 times 70″ – Jesus
        “Believe in me or be condemned” – JESUS

        This nonsense is destructive to civilization.

        • @Atheist Max
          Dude, would you kindly find some other blog or forum to post to?

          You clearly have some kind of ax to grind against God, theism, Jesus, and Christianity, as you have repeatedly peppered this conversation thread with misinformed salvos against Jesus and the Christian faith.

          This is a discussion about preacher Mark Driscoll – this is not a referendum on the person of Jesus Christ or theism of Christianity.

          I’m pretty much agnostic myself, but I don’t spend every waking minute on a religious blog about Christian personalities, ranting against Christianity. That is lame and you are accomplishing nothing but being terribly annoying.

          Take your hang ups with Christianity to an atheist forum somewhere where they would be on topic.

          • @Sunset,

            “would you kindly find some other blog or forum to post to”

            Who are you?
            Do you not know that the topic of this column is the hypocrisy endemic to preachers and their lies?

            “I slaughtered my son for you. I made sure he was a bloody mess, full of pain before he died. I did this for you. If you do not believe me, I’ll do much worse things to you for eternity.” – LOVE, Yahweh.

            There are three topics the rest of us are discussing!

            1. understanding why preachers fail.
            2. The value (or lack thereof) of what they preach.
            3. The damage to the wider community of what they preach.
            4. The question of whether a religious community owes ‘forgiveness’ to a disruptive preacher and whether or not such a guilt trip is a good thing for anyone!
            5. The implications of preaching a religion which nurtures immoral behavior and continues to spread them under the philosophy of ‘forgiveness’!

            So if you were paying the slightest attention I have been addressing all of these questions.

            And furthermore, ATHEISM is the response to a god claim.
            So if you are going to claim god is real
            You are going to find people like me who will challenge that claim
            And ask for explanations.

            We are all Atheists (non-believers) with respect to thousands of gods. You don’t believe in Zeus or Thor or Osiris, etc.
            So you already know what Atheism feels like!
            I just go one more.

        • Chaplain Martin

          Bro Max
          Your ranting is enough to make a preacher curse. Damn! How many people are you going to win to your view point with your posts? Even the agnostics are commenting against you. You say your are a humanist and before you seemed to be so, but not of late. Christians are use to being attacked and they are use to having their beliefs attacked. Look up the word “grace”. In my meager efforts I have attempted to show you some grace. You continue to show your hurt and pain, yes partly because of not forgiving, not “letting go”. Yes you can attack me for my judging you, but I think of it more as my observation.

          The article was about forgiving. Now I have some disagreement with Merritt’s writing about forgiving Driscoll, but forgiving can freeing. Forgiving does not mean the offender does not have to face the consequences of his actions. Please read my other comments on this article.

        • Atheist MaxFan

          @Atheist Max, keep starting conversations and helping people think from a different perspective. Many Christians have never had the opportunity to think for themselves and need a little boost.

    • My thoughts exactly. Mark Driscoll is my pastor and although he has made serious blunders and he does sin I found this article to be totally devoid of the grace that it states it has for mark.

    • I found this article to actually be a brave acceptance of Mark’s apology. What this first comment shows me, though, is that despite our best intentions, we can’t change how people see the world.

      Thanks for putting it out there Jonathan.

    • This article is click bait? Is it any more or less than the professor’s blog from PA? Or from the closet liberal thats hates anything to do with literal interpretation of Scripture?

      I’d rather read an article about someone accepting Driscoll’s apology over reading two theologically liberal bloggers feel the need to attack him even though they weren’t the ones that were sinned against.

      • Mark Driscoll’s comments are a sin against every woman in the church. As a woman, he has sinned against me by stating that he is a Christian leader and representing God and then by having such an ungodly and profane view of me. I do forgive him. God bless him.

  2. I know we’re supposed to accept his apology and forgive him, but it’s not easy for me to do. People like him are why I seriously wanted to kill myself as a teen, because I knew that no matter how hard I prayed or struggled to be a “normal”, heterosexual male, it would never happen.

    Yes, I know I’m bitter. I just need more time.

    • Lee,
      I can completely relate to your feelings. And I have had (and sometimes still do) much contempt for MD. His words injure, steal, kill, and destroy many good people. His apologies, at least to me, seem like a way to maintain his power, but…
      if grace is at the center of the Gospel, as Jonathan states here, then forgiveness is something we learn to do. Sometimes that takes a long time. I cling to grace because I know in my heart I need it for all the things that I do on a regular basis, I need it because I am not good enough, and never will be.
      MD needs grace too, and he needs to learn how to extend it as well.
      Take all the time you need to forgive, God’s grace covers that as well.
      Peace to you,
      Mark Lee Schnitzer

        • Atheists don’t look at scripture without bais. It’s called context. Certainly atheists have better arguments than this. The one you are making is very poor. He was talking about Israel here. And certainly there exists a tension of grace and discipline. But you have to read books more and do it better.

          • @Brian,

            Wrong!
            It is not ‘out of context’. Rather, it is a salient excerpt.

            But isn’t it so funny that ‘context’ is never required
            for the nice verses?

            “God is love”
            “Love your enemies” – Jesus
            “Love your neighbor”

            No one ever questions those :-)

            BUT GOD’S DISGUSTING COMMENTS
            NEED ‘CONTEXT’ :

            “I’m raising up evil…he’s going to have sex with your wives in broad daylight!”

            “The master shall cut him to pieces” – Jesus

            “The slave will be severely punished, for though he knew his duty, he refused to do it.” – Jesus

            “you shall cut off her hand; show no pity” – God

            “Any person who curseth his mother or father, must be killed.” – God

            “And your daughter, if she play the whore…she shall be burnt with fire.” – God

            “hate your mother and father, even hate your life” – Jesus

            “Now kill all the boys and all the women who have slept with a man. Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for your pleasures.” – God

            “he must marry the young woman because he raped her.” – God

            “He shall rape your wives in broad daylight” – God

            “I do NOT come in Peace” – Jesus

            “Execute them in front of me” – Jesus

            “They are dogs” – Jesus

            “If you have money BUY A SWORD” – JESUS

            “I regretted creating humanity” – God

            “Remove your blessings of Peace” – Jesus

            “Dash their babies heads against the rocks” – God

            “God shall slay the babies in their wombs” – God

            “Cursed is he who holds back the sword of blood!” – God

            Disgusting! Primitive rot!

    • If Driscoll was a less mendacious jerk in public, it would be much easier for people to believe he is different from that nasty-minded 14 year old boy.

        • My bad. The comments were 14 years old. This is what happens when I read an article on a cheap phone with a tiny screen. :)

          Then mendacious jerk is more than appropriate. Driscoll is notorious for “non-apologies” where he apologizes that someone is offended by his words rather than apologize for giving offense.

        • Lawrence Grotius

          “Note: he was not a 14-year-old boy when the comments were made. He was 30.”

          And a pastor of the same church he “pastors” now.
          He was disqualified as an elder then, and he remains disqualified.
          But they keep throwing the dollars and accolades his way.
          Great work if you can get it!

          • Yes I realized my error after looking at it on a decent screen.

            My bad. I did something stupid.

            I pulled an Emily Litella
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emily_Litella

            I sincerely apologize and promise not to do it again.

            My apology here is much more sincere than Mark Driscoll’s. I admit doing something wrong, not merely that offense was taken. I am willing to be self-deprecating about it as a sign of being humbled.

    • Lee, you’re so awesome! “I just need more time.” is what every one of us should say, since we need the Spirit to guide us, chide us and grow us. That you see truth and work to attain it is the mark of a maturing believer.

  3. *sigh*
    In response to Samuel’s first point, when a well known leader makes the kind of comments that Mark Driscoll did (have you READ what he wrote?!), obviously individuals will be hurt and take it personally. Mark Driscoll may not even know who Jonathan Merritt is, but that doesn’t mean that Jonathan can’t be hurt by the “blunders”. It is not for you or I to tell someone else they should or shouldn’t be hurt by the actions and words of others.

    As to point number two, let me quote the above article – “Let me be clear: Accepting Driscoll’s apology does not mean we excuse his reprehensible actions in the past, fail to call him to better behavior in the present, or ignore future abuses if (or when) they occur.” Forgiveness does not mean forgetting the past or ignoring future behavior. I can, and must, forgive you, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be disappointed by your actions.

    And for the comment in the last paragraph, it’s my personal belief that no one has the right to say what Jesus would or would not be ashamed of. He is the only one who can be the judge of others and their intentions.

  4. I absolutely think we should accept his apology. Although there is nothing that I have directly felt that he needs to apologize for since I am not a member of his church, don’t live in his community and don’t know him.

    But here is the deal, when we as Christians are advocates of reconciliation, not just ‘saying I’m sorry’, we need more. What is necessary for reconcilation is that those who have been directly wronged have directly apologies where he actually admits to what he has done.

    And from what I can tell from a number of people, that isn’t happening. And it is unlikely to happen as long as he is protected in his role as pastor.

    So I agree we should accept his abstract apology to us as Christians. But I also think that for reconciliation (which is our goal) that he needs to step down from his role, seek counseling (and wise counsel) and start reconciling with those brothers and sisters in Christ that he has directly harmed.

    • As members of The Body of Christ followers, we are directly wronged by the words & actions of MD. I fear he is apologizing for these past words b/c he’s been caught…yet again.
      If you’ve not read the blogs by ex-staff/elders, you know MD has not apologized to these people directly.
      The deep pain he’s caused these people with his actions of fraud, twisted doctrine, verbal abuse & control is equivalent to what the church as a whole went thru with the 1980’s scandals.
      He Must be held accountable.
      He chose to force himself into the social media light…Not his local church…He did that. Therefore The Church is directly wronged.

  5. I think a distinction should be made between forgiveness and acceptance. Should we forgive? Yes, forever. But does that mean we continue to let the abuser have authority/influence in our lives? No. Forgiveness is meant to set us free. Those who hold on and demand retribution are as enslaved as the abused. The only way out is forgiveness but that doesn’t necessarily imply continued relationship. It is wise to flee the abuser. It is not wise to let his power remain over your life and emotions because you won’t forgive.

    • Agreed. And even with forgiveness there are still consequences. There is a higher standard for those in authority and for those who teach others (James 3:1). Much of what MD did was done while he was a pastor, and does seem to be a pattern that reveals his true character, or at least deeper issues to address. We don’t lop off their head with the first offense, but at some point more will need to be done. As much as a watching world needs to see forgiveness from the church, they also need to see accountability – both biblical issues for the church to live out.

    • @Felicity,

      Forgiveness is immoral.
      Except for the rare occasion when it might be wisely dispensed
      as a learning experience to a child.

      “Forgive not 7 times, but 7 times 70″ says Jesus.
      Disgusting!
      A despicable, inhuman, immoral injunction – it has led to nothing but misery in the world – and even the slaughter of millions.

        • I’m only pointing to facts.
          Believing in Forgiveness has destroyed countless millions of lives.

          Criminals in prison believed in forgiveness. That is how they got into prison. The vast majority in prison are people who believe this stuff.

          If Christian forgiveness lead to a better world – we would be there already. Once forgiven, the Christian can take up all sorts of evil behavior:

          “bring to me those enemies of mine who would not have me as their King and execute them in front of me.” – Jesus (Luke 19:27)

          Christianity doesn’t work.
          That is why preachers like Mark Driscoll are
          examples of, preachers of and PERPETRATORS OF
          an ongoing social calamity called Christianity.

          It needs to be abandoned.

          • @andy mc,

            The context of a DISGUSTING parable
            about executions for disobedient slaves
            does NOT absolve the monster telling the parable!

            The Nobleman is Jesus as any Bible teacher will tell you.
            The Lesson: Obey and Fear the Nobleman or else!

            It is a shameful, disgusting lesson.
            And Jesus did it.

          • @ Atheist Max
            You don’t understand Jesus, the Bible, or the culture in which it was written. Your outbursts are ignorant and emotion-based. And I thought atheists prided themselves in being “rational.”

          • @Sunset,

            Yes. Disgust is an emotion.
            Are you under the ignorant impression that Atheists don’t care about people?
            Are you under the impression that non-believers are somehow not really human?

            “bring to me those enemies of mine who would not have me as their King and Execute them in front of me.” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

          • @andy mc,

            Yes, very good. Luke 19 is a parable – the worst parable in all of history.

            The lesson of The Parable of the Minas:
            “Fear and Obey your master or you will be executed.” – Love, Jesus.

            You should read the parable before you comment further.
            I taught sunday school so you are not dealing with an ignorant person here!

    • To be honest, all 14 year old guys are hormonal idiots. I would not hold an adult to what they said back then. Of course the real problem is given Driscoll’s behavior as an adult, few people are really willing to believe he has changed.

      • @Sunset,

        Name one immoral behavior caused by Atheism.
        Atheism: “I do not believe in any gods”

        Show me how this lack of belief leads me to do something evil!
        Funny, cuz there are almost no Atheists in jail.

          • @Joe,

            Shame on you for slandering Atheism simply because you can’t answer my question.

            Atheists do not go to jail.
            Less than .03 percent of people in jail
            are Atheists even though they make up approximately 8% of the population. (Pew Research).

            The jails are full of Christians.

            Show me how lack of belief in a god leads to immoral behavior.

            Where these Atheists immoral?

            Paul Newman – raised $370 Million for children with cancer
            Warren Buffett – travels the world donating billions
            Bill Gates – travels the world donating billions
            Dr. Seuss – created libraries full of joy for countless children
            Thomas Edison – Thank him for all your electrical appliances
            Jaques Yves Cousteau – Thank him for starting the environmentalism.

            Were all these people worthy of your hatred?
            Me? “In jail?” – really?

        • Ok…some wonderful atheists….Adolph Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin, Lenin, Idi Amin, shall I go on? There are loads of atheist mass murders in history. Some very fine upstanding atheists for sure!

  6. Jonn McDaniel

    I am reminded of the story of, what I call, “The Grace Horder” found in Matthew 18. You know, the story Jesus told about a man who realized he needed grace and pleaded for it? After grace was given to him, the man went out and denied grace to someone else.

    We sing songs in worship about an “Amazing Grace” that makes the lost to be found and the blind to see. But, anyone who claims to have experienced a type of grace that is nothing short of amazing and then chooses a lifestyle that does not center on gifting grace has not, in fact, understood the very gift he or she has been given. Sadly, such a person is still blind and does not see.

    As I think about the many reasons we continue to write and sing songs about an amazing grace and not an amazing judgment, I have come to believe that if a people who proclaim the free gift of grace from God would simply freely gift grace away themselves, it would truly prove to the world such a gift of grace to be amazing.

    • @Jonn,

      “After grace was given to him, the man went out and denied grace to someone else.”

      I don’t know what it could possibly take to explain how stupid that sounds.

      What good is god’s ‘grace’ if it leads to being ‘graceless’?
      This is fictional, silly, superstitious nonsense.

      • Jonn McDaniel

        @A.Max You are exactly right! This one thing, in my experience, is one of the greatest unifying causes of Atheism that I hear from my atheist friends. How can a people who proclaim an idea of the human condition being one that is centered on a need for grace and a way to obtain that grace, ever refuse grace to others? It is indeed ridiculous, or “silly” as you said. That is indeed the entire point of the story of the grace hoarder.

        Driscoll didn’t seem to remember or get that grace story when he was being judgmental of homosexuals, of women, or of anyone who questions his authority. Now he is the one asking for grace again. For those who claim to be in the grace business, the choice should be clear to gift grace.

        • @Jonn,

          You missed my point entirely.

          What GOOD is grace if it does not educate or inoculate one from behaving poorly? If it does not manifest itself somehow, who is to say it exists?!

          You are claiming that ‘Grace’ is real. Yet it does nothing.
          Things that have no effect and have no evidence are known as ‘NOTHING’.

          This is a delusion you are nurturing and it is harmful.

          • As an atheist, you cannot provide an objective definition for “harmful” or “good” or any other statement of value. Consistent atheism (if such a thing were possible) can only describe how things are; it cannot describe how things should be.

            And yet, you do recognize that there is such a thing as “good”, among many other value statements. Why is that? Because (like everyone else who has ever lived), you actually are aware of not only the existence of God, but also the fundamentals of his character (such as his unchanging nature, his justice, his holiness, and so forth), and subconsciously assume these things as axiomatic for anything else you do or think.

          • What the hell are you talking about Astev?

            You can’t tell when you have injured or harmed someone?

            You need God to tell you its wrong to insult or demean others?

            Do you only act in a beneficial manner towards others because you are afraid of divine punishment or want some kind of reward?

            People who claim they get their morality from religion do themselves a disservice. It comes off like one is a psychopath on a divine leash. That they would gladly be harmful wicked people if God gives them sanction to do so and that they have no connection to other human beings. Being incapable of the most basic empathy to know that people don’t like to be harmed and you don’t like it either.

  7. I realize you are most likely not reading your comments on this post, yet with tears in my eyes I say thank you again for your words. You give me courage again today when it was fading to continue writing. As both one who has been deeply hurt and who has deeply hurt I am terrified to release my story even in bits and pieces to a Christian public- to those who know me and those who don’t- because I fear that all is not grace. I fear that Jesus will not be seen above all: sanctifying stubborn me, healing broken me, and redeeming all of me. Thank you Jonathan, for the complex balance you bring to journalistic writing.

    • TheOccasionalAtheist

      Whoever told you that you are broken and in need of redemption is a disgusting and despicable human being. The worshiping of a “god” that created such a flawed being and then demands you to beg to get fixed is tantamount to abuse.
      The god that men claim loves you, demands you to beg forgiveness because it created you flawed?
      If you bought a new car that was defective, would it be ok for the dealer to make you beg for a repair and damn your car to hell for eternity?

      • @ Occasional Atheist said,
        “Whoever told you that you are broken and in need of redemption is a disgusting and despicable human being. The worshiping of a “god” that created such a flawed being and then demands you to beg to get fixed is tantamount to abuse. The god that men claim loves you, demands you to beg forgiveness because it created you flawed?”

        @ Occasional Atheist, I am agnostic, a former Christian.

        Your understanding of Christianity is very flawed. God did not create “flawed” beings. God created Adam and Eve, who were without sin (they were not originally flawed), gave them a free will, gave them ONE rule (don’t eat from ONE tree), and they disobeyed that one rule, and sin entered humanity.

        According to Christian theology, mankind is to blame – it was mankind that broke the relationship with God which only could be restored by God, which God made possible by placing the guilty of humanity on his son, second member of the Trinity, God’s son, Jesus Christ. Forgiveness and reconciliation for humanity is now possible via Jesus Christ, but each individual has to choose to accept Christ.

        You can choose to turn your back on God and reject him. God does not want to force a relationship with you.

        This is “Christianity 101,” and that you seem so terribly ignorant of it means you should stop criticizing what you obviously do not understand.

  8. Since you said you would refuse to read comments, I’m not sure how much of a difference this will make but I think it’s important to state publicly.

    I’ve always appreciated your heart for grace, Jonathan. But having studied the dynamics of both domestic and religious abuse, apologies are a dangerous part of the cycle. [A woman gets beat up. Her boyfriend apologizes profusely. She stays with him. It happens again. And round and round it goes.] Folks in toxic religious environments are conditioned to do the same thing, and to feel guilt and shame when they don’t accept yet another empty apology as enough. (“We all need grace,” they are told. “You’re just as bad a sinner as he is, so you have to forgive.”) It’s well known that at SGM, children were forced to “forgive” their abusers rather than report the abuse. This is not okay.

    There is a pretty huge difference, in my mind, between an apology and repentance. Repentance is marked by a change in direction. With Mark, it’s been 20 years of apologies and no real repentance. I think we can forgive Mark, and I think his victims can forgive Mark too, but we’re at a point where demanding that victims of bullying accept another empty apology as sufficient is unfair and only serves to perpetuate the abuse. When we use the “we’re all sinners” language to justify an abusive person staying in a position of power, we’ve missed the boat. It’s not really grace when it doesn’t reach the victims.

    Whenever Mark does something horrible, we go through this cycle where 1) people call him out, 2) stories from the people he’s hurt emerge, 3) people say we need to let it go and extend Mark grace because we’re all Christians and in need of grace. And suddenly, it’s all about Mark again. Not the people he calls pussies and pansies. Not the women he calls sluts. Not the folks who have suffered from Mars Hill’s cult-like policies. It’s always about Mark. And it’s frustrating to me.

    It’s also frustrating that you refer to those of us who have been critical of Mark’s teachings and behaviors as his “gaggle of critics,” like this is a sport or something. It’s not to me. Really. I write about Mark because of the messages I get in my inbox from people who have suffered, deeply, because of him and because of men like him.

    • Exactly, Rachel. Grace for the abuser trumps justice for the victim. Again. The victims are once again relegated to a “gaggle of critics” and “vampirical!” No justice nor grace for victims in that sentiment.

      There was no need for Jonathan to go there to make his point of forgiveness. Once again, victims are being shamed into silence.

    • Yes. What Rachel Said.

      Jonathan, you wrote, “I hope that Mark is genuinely trying to carve a different path for himself. One that is isn’t so angry and arrogant, sex-obsessed and sexist, dishonest and defensive. I hope that his recent actions signal a change in course. A change, that is, because I don’t expect a total and immediate about-face—sanctification is a slow, chipping away after all.”

      I hope for this too. But it cannot happen in the current environment. Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll do not show any evidence of real ownership of the problems, or real repentance. They continue to spin and obfuscate. I mean, how can MD possibly claim that his critics are “mostly anonymous” when dozens of ex pastors and elders have, individually or together, approach him and the leadership with their concerns, only to be rejected and shunned? How can you continue to apologize only after you’re caught?

      Surely you would agree that your hope stated above is best done out of the spotlight, which would involve at the very least a long term sabbatical, but more likely a resignation of the senior leadership. Mark can heal – there is tremendous hope for healing to come to such a gifted and disturbed person, but rarely, if ever, can it happen while he is still in leadership.

    • To put it plainly, Christians just don’t have a good understanding of forgiveness, primarily because of how people have taught it over the years–like the foolishness that one hasn’t truly forgiveness until one has forgotten. Well, that’s just indicative of a lack of wisdom, and a lack of care for those who could be future victims of the person you’ve supposedly forgiven.

      While we can never force someone to forgive, we can and should gently advise it, and give people to space and time they need to navigate the road towards it. Forgiveness releases the heart of so much toxic hostility and allows healing to take place. In other words, it frees the abused from the poison of the abuser.

      But one should never equate forgiveness with enablement. A woman should forgive her physically abusive boyfriend, but that doesn’t mean she should stay in a relationship with him. It doesn’t mean she should let her guard down and not be on the lookout for warning signs in future relationships.

      I can forgive someone for molesting my hypothetical 3 year old child. However, I would be a selfish, cruel, criminally negligent fool to let that person babysit again, or to allow him/her to remain free by not filing charges and, in so failing to do, put other children in danger.

      Forgiveness prevents me from being desirous of vengeance or retribution. It should *not*, however, prevent me from taking steps to protect myself and others from future abuses. I think it’s important that calls for forgiveness include such statements of distinction because the very concept has been so mistaught in the Church that it can lead to disastrous effects if applied in a manner consistent with traditional thought.

    • maureen farrell garcia

      Yep. The difficulty i’ve encountered over and over again in evangelical culture is that there is a culture of grace being unequal but not in the way Jonathan is suggesting. There is often much more grace available to abusers than to those abused. And, Rachel hits the nail on the head when she brings up abusive dynamics. Those who advocate for grace for abusers, who suggest vics and survivors meet requirements such as forgiveness or reconciliation, often have no concept of abusive dynamics and therefore have no real clear idea of what true holding-out-hope-for-transformation grace looks like for abusers.

    • Hi Rachel,

      When has Mark Driscoll ever called women “sluts”? I understand your frustration but that’s a bold accusation and I’m wondering where it’s founded.

      Thank you.

      • Heather-

        I can’t be certain because the 100+ page document was so very long, but I am pretty sure Mark used that exact word, and numerous other slurs, when speaking about women as “William Wallace II.”

        • The sluts passage is

          “Here’s a free one to chew on. Let’s suppose the women were pagan sluts in a few cities Paul wrote to. You are suggesting that because of that Paul did not appoint women elders. What the hell does what is going on in the city have to do with who rules in the church. In my city
          we have lots of pagan sluts and we still don’t have any women elders. If Paul indeed thought that women could be elders he would have likely appointed many women elders to set a counter example to the pagan sluts thereby showing God’d ideal for a woman, rather than ducking the issue and letting the pagan sluts walk away with the Theological
          Superbowl victory.”

          It’s a dickish way of saying it but the whole thread is billed as Driscoll’s “Fight Club” where he and others appear to enjoy being bad boys. Too much of it has been taken at face value. It’s bravado and others frequently rebuke him in the same style.

          • “It’s a dickish way of saying it but the whole thread is billed as Driscoll’s “Fight Club” where he and others appear to enjoy being bad boys.”

            Probably either by people who were too dense to realize Fight Club was a vicious parody of reckless male bravado or those making a sarcastic remark about such things.

  9. This is despicable:

    “grace is for…

    The inmate who promised the parole board he’d be good, but he wasn’t…
    The dim-eyed who showed the path to others but kept losing his way…
    The liar, the tramp, the thief; otherwise known as the priest, speaker, and author…
    The disciple whose cheese slid off the cracker so many times he said ‘to hell with cheese ‘n’ crackers’…
    The younger and elder prodigals who’ve come to their senses again, and again, and again, and again.”

    IS NO ONE EXPECTED TO ACT LIKE AN ADULT?
    IS NO ONE EXPECTED TO BEHAVE?

    Christianity is not only incoherent, it is fundamentally disastrous to civilization.

    • “Christianity is not only incoherent, it is fundamentally disastrous to civilization”

      Ancient Rome would be exposing unwanted babies in the wilderness if it wasn’t the Church protecting them.

      And civilization would have largely died out during the dark ages of Europe if not for the scriptoriums of the Irish monasteries who preserved manuscripts (both religious and non). See Thomas Cahill: “How The Irish Saved Civilization”.

      • @Dan Carollo,

        1. Christianity is based on a lie. It has outlived the usefulness of that lie.

        2. Atheist countries today prove that society can live perfectly well without gods – they are the safest, happiest, wealthiest, most equitable and most generous societies on earth.

        3. The fact that monasteries have libraries has more to do with luck than religion. Those monasteries, as you well know, were holding books deemed anathema to Christianity. “I am the way” does not argue for a large collection of books!

      • “Ancient Rome would be exposing unwanted babies in the wilderness if it wasn’t the Church protecting them.”

        Because they needed the babies for slave labor. Given the fact that rudimentary forms of contraception and abortion in the Roman Empire existed, the story rings of latge-coming Middle Ages Church PR than truth.

        The Church DESTROYED a lot of civilization in the Dark ages in their efforts to consolidate power. Not unlike the Romans before them. Europe was hardly the most advanced civilization BEFORE the Dark Ages. It was not that knowledge was lost, it was that communication/trade networks dried up. Fewer methods of transmitting knowledge across territory. Latin language helped, but Church efforts to prevent widespread literacy stifled this.

        The Church only preserved what was beneficial to them. Many ancient texts were either destroyed or altered to suit church needs. In fact the Islamic Caliphate was far more advanced than Christian Europe. The Persian Empire was more advanced than the Romans, the Muslims were its successor. Arabic was the language of trade, science and mathematics for much of the world during the height of ascendancy of the Christian church. The Renaissance would not exist if not for forays by Europeans into the Middle East with the Crusades.

  10. I know there are people who have been incredibly hurt by Driscoll and this doesn’t minimize that but:

    Have you ever attended Mars Hill? No.
    Do you know Mark Driscoll personally? No.
    Have you ever listened to a Mark Driscoll sermon? No.
    Why do you dislike him so much? Because I’ve read a lot of bad things about him.
    But, how is he affecting your life? Well, he’s not I guess.
    So why do you hate him so much then? Because everyone else does and he’s a bad person.
    I agree. I don’t really think he’s a good person either and from what I gather he’s unfit for ministry.
    So you like him then?
    I don’t know him, I haven’t heard him, and I probably won’t listen to him.
    So you hate him then?
    I don’t know him, I haven’t heard him, and I probably won’t listen to him.
    ———
    I don’t know Driscoll other than what I’ve read about him. Sounds like the guy has issues. I hope things work out for him.

    • @Andy,

      I’m not focused on Mr. Driscoll.
      I am focused on the beliefs he holds AND ESPOUSES that got him AND OTHERS LIKE HIM into this sordid disaster.

      Jesus was an incoherent fool.
      He did not know about sociopaths or psychopathic behavior.

      To forgive, “not 7 times but 7 times 70″ is a great way to create a mass murderer. It has worked repeatedly throughout history.

      If you know any angry drunks, you know how useful Jesus’ injunction is – it is garbage.

      What people need to realize is not that a primitive man could have been so foolish and ignorant – but that this fool has no place at all in modern people’s lives!

      Good grief!

    • Have you ever attended Mars Hill? Yes 2000 -2001
      Do you know Mark Driscoll personally? I sat in his home in Montlake and did bible study with him and a handful of other men.
      Have you ever listened to a Mark Driscoll sermon? Yes
      Why do you dislike him so much? I don’t dislike him but I do dislike his actions.
      But, how is he affecting your life? As a Christian in Seattle his actions it is hard to spread the Gospel of Jesus in a town that is already antagonistic towards Christianity.
      So why do you hate him so much then? Nice strawman. I don’t hate him. I want him to show true repentance and stepping down would be a sign of true repentance.

      • “As a Christian in Seattle his actions it is hard to spread the Gospel of Jesus in a town that is already antagonistic towards Christianity.
        So why do you hate him so much then? Nice strawman. I don’t hate him. I want him to show true repentance and stepping down would be a sign of true repentance.”

        Congratulations. You’re one of the few people I’ve seen commenting on blogs about Driscoll who can actually say that. I’m curious though: So is it that it’s hard to spread the gospel in Seattle or that you want him to do what you think to show true repentance? It seems, in my experience at least, it doesn’t matter how much one apologizes. If that apology doesn’t personally satisfy my wants or needs for justice it’s worthless.

        • As Christians we should accept a persons apology. But his apology is only for some of what he has done. It does not matter if I accept his apology or not because I really have not been wronged. I left after Mars Hill was promoting “Headship” or Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. But there are others that have been hurt and I am standing by them.
          He and Sutton Turner need to step down to show true repentance. The funny thing is if Mark stepped down he would garner immense support from those who are asking for him to step down. Sure there would be those who hate him and always hate him but Christianity is about forgiveness.

          • Fair enough Mark. From the pages I read of William Wallace postings, for me, I don’t think MD belonged in ministry at all. What I think is interesting about that though is that’s where Mark thought he was being anonymous and he was able to speak what he really thought and often, again for me, if I spoke what I really thought about a lot of things I doubt folks would like me very much either. We all have a lot of William Wallace in us and thankfully no one ever really finds out that we do. Except for God of course. He knows all of our thoughts. Psalm 139. I don’t know I guess. I know my own depravity and need for forgiveness. As difficult as it is at times I tend to not understand why people find it hard to extend that to others. Speaking generally, not towards you.

          • Mark is a gifted speaker and the general thought was that he would be kept in check by the Elder’s structure in place at the time. If let consenting adults what they want so long as they don’t hurt anyone else. But by 2007 he had convinced enough elders to rewrite the bylaws to give Mark all the power. The history of how they got to this place was erased and people were really hurt. The truth needs to be exposed.

    • Andy,

      You’re underestimating Mark’s influence. I’ve never met Mark or been to Mars Hill, but many men I know have been to his Resurgence conferences, read his books, and look to him as a spiritual mentor. As a woman who already faces an uphill battle to have her voice heard in the church, I find that influence deeply troubling. I don’t hate him, but I do wish he would step down from his position of power so his influence would cease.

      • “but I do wish he would step down from his position of power so his influence would cease.”

        I won’t though Amanda. It’ll just be replaced by someone else’s influence. Kinda sad isn’t it?

        • The pessimism isn’t necessary. Systematic abuse like Mark’s doesn’t vanish overnight (maybe “cease” was too strong), but as more and more people join the fight against it, it loses its stronghold. It’s a long fight, yes, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be won.

          • I don’t mean to be a bit of pessimist Amanda but the priesthood has always been a mess. From the sons of Eli to the Mark Driscolls. It doesn’t mean that it’ll never change but history, it would seem, indicates that it always will be a mess in some fashion or another. Hopefully in the short and long term lessons from current and future leaders will be learned.

  11. I agree that grace is to be extended. But what does grace look like? For a pastor–grace may look like a long sabbatical to get out of the system that is the congregation–with all its responsibility and expectations and all of its politics and control issues and needs–to find health. To suggest Pastor Driscoll needs to step down–at least temporarily–is not ungracious. In fact I have seen sabbaticals and change of churches to be quite grace giving to pastors and their ministries. To decide that grace can not look like Pastor Driscoll being asked to leave or take a sabbatical may actually be withholding grace from him.

  12. Let’s talk about the “apology.” There seems to always be the people who like to jump on others for not accepting the apology with zero acknowledgement of how crappy that “apology” may be. When it starts off with, “Well, this was said 14 years ago but ok, fine, I’m sorry.” Yeah, no. The guy has yet to show real remorse and I don’t think Jesus meant for us to accept half-assed non-sincere apologies. Use your discernment here.

  13. Re: “Any New Testament scholar can tell you that Jesus was not merely upping the limit of times one must accept the apologies of a repeat offender.” But of course Jesus never commanded us to “accept the apology” of a repeat offender (or any other kind of offender), and never modeled for us the “acceptance of apologies.” I’m actually not sure what that phrase even means. So to tell us you’ve done this and “so should [we]” is a little strange. Looking at someone’s track record, seeing this latest event as a repetition of a troubling pattern, and hesitating to believe the person’s sincerity without evidence of real change, is NOT tantamount to a lack of grace or forgiveness.

  14. Of course there is grace for Driscoll. Of course he should seek healing and ask for forgiveness. But Jonathan, respectfully you are missing a piece of the equation. Forgiveness accomplishes many things both for victims and perpetrators; but has his ministry done something to harm you specifically? Unless that answer is yes and you identify strongly with those Driscoll has abused and marginalized in his ministry, it is not your forgiveness he should be seeking. He needs to understand those whom he has hurt and begin to look at what that hurt feels like. Only then is his apology meaningful for himself and others. Otherwise it is not grace, rather it serves only to cheapen grace.

  15. “I find that when I think I am asking God to forgive me I am often in reality…asking Him not to forgive me but to excuse me. But there is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing. Forgiveness says ‘Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology…’ But excusing says ‘I see that you couldn’t help it or didn’t mean it; you weren’t really to blame.’ …And if we forget this, we shall go away imagining that we have repented and been forgiven when all that has really happened is that we have satisfied ourselves with our own excuses. They may be very bad excuses; we are all too easily satisfied about ourselves.”

    ~ “On Forgiveness,” The Weight of Glory

  16. “So type your little heart out in the comment section. I won’t read it.”

    Disagreeing with Jonathan Merritt is apparently the one sin Jonathan Merritt can’t forgive.

    His decidedly not-so-grace-filled attitude towards commenters reminds me of another RNS contributor, Sarah Jones (Chris Stedman’s pinch-hitter). She won’t respond to comments on her pieces but does take the time to complain about and mock them on her Twitter feed.

    Does RNS specifically seek out writers who are openly contemptuous of its readers?

  17. The Great God Pan

    “In addition to being expletive-laden, [Driscoll's comments] were misogynistic and homophobic (and I do not use either term lightly).”

    So, aside from the profanity they just read like press releases from, say, the American Family Association?

    It’s nice to see that you (and so many other evangelical Christians in the comments) are willing to forgive Mark Driscoll for writing things that evangelical Christians normally write. That’s mighty big of you.

  18. For what it’s worth, I have a friend (no, really, this is about a friend) who, though very different from Mr. Driscoll, has also committed egregious sin and sought forgiveness. If I must make a comparison, my friend was more forthright in taking steps that reflect repentance, specifically by stepping down from a position of leadership. I can tell you how deeply my friend appreciates what Mr. Merritt has written here, and how much he is glad for people who accepted his apology at the beginning, before any fruit of repentance was visible.

    I’m at a loss to know why any thoughtful Christian would object to what Mr. Merritt has said. He insists that the best path of repentance for Mr. Driscoll is to step down, but simply says that accepting his apology as such is essentially the first, necessary and often supremely difficult response of those who take Christ’s grace seriously.

    So I ask this question of Christ followers: Is grace only to be extended when one is satisfied that another’s repentance is sufficiently genuine, or do we first extend grace and then encourage, even insist, on the fruit of repentance?

    Atheist Max, your lack of appreciation for the nuanced, witty rhetoric of Jesus of Nazareth is full of unintentional humor.

    • SWNID,

      This is the WIT OF JESUS??

      “Bring to me those enemies of mine who would not have me as their King and EXECUTE THEM IN FRONT OF ME.” – JESUS (LUKE 19:27)

      The 6 million dead Jews of the holocaust will be pleasantly surprised to find out that this was just WITTY JESUS didn’t really mean this literally!

      Shame on you!

  19. TheOccasionalAtheist

    The author does not care about the comments we make, he stated it in his rant.
    Closed minds do not work sir. Try opening up a bit and maybe create a rapport with your audience.
    Good day.

  20. This is a serious question, but can I forgive him and still believe he is not qualified to be a pastor? Can I still believe he needs to resign?

    • I think that is where most of the negative responses are at this point. Regardless of whether anyone accepts his apology or not, he is currently unfit to lead the congregation. If for no other reason that he is so mistrusted.

  21. If Christian forgiveness is something that can be demanded from victims by a stranger’s blog post, then it is not something worth giving or receiving.

    So, to every Christian who is reading this article and scrolling through the comments, here’s a message from another side.

    You don’t have to forgive Mark Driscoll. And you don’t have to accept his apology.

    Really, you don’t.

    It doesn’t matter how many writers or theologians or even angels on high say otherwise. Forgiveness is an incredible personal and intimate part of yourself that belongs to no one else. It is something that is to be given as a free gift, or not at all. It cannot be mandated, it cannot be commanded. I can tell you that you ‘can’ forgive, but I cannot and will not ever tell you that you ‘should,’ nor that you should accept an apology.

    It does not matter whether you were abused directly by Driscoll, or if his words hurt you by bringing up memories of abuse, or if he helped foster an abusive environment that affected you. When someone tells you that because you belong to a certain religion, you must give up forgiveness to your abuser, that is spiritual abuse. No exceptions.

    Mr. Merritt is demanding that personal part of you in favour of Driscoll. I am telling you that it is not a sin to not make that sacrifice if you don’t want to. Your anger and pain are part of your human dignity. They are not sins.

    There are people whom I am never going to forgive. I’m a survivor of all sorts of abuse in my life – religious, physical, sexual, spiritual, emotional. I have not forgiven my abusers. I am not going to give another intimate part of myself to them so that they can feel better about themselves. And that’s how I’ve maintained my dignity and worth in the face of abuse.

    You are not victims, you are survivors. Don’t let yourself be revictimised for the sake of any man’s idol.

    -TIA

    • Chaplain Martin

      Hello Irish Atheist
      When I read your post I detect a certain amount of the spiritual, maybe a caring spirit. “If Christian forgiveness is something that can be demanded from victims by a stranger’s blog post, then it is not something worth giving or receiving.” When a hurting person tells me “I know I’m supposed to forgive.” I know they have double the pain. The anxiety and guilt of not forgiving and the pain of the hurt visited upon them.

      In my many years as pastoral counselor/License Professional Counselor I have found that in order for a client to attain freedom from obsessing and even lingering hate for the person who abused them there has to be a journey of letting go. I’m not saying forgetting but to move beyond rehearsing the pain and anger. I have seen forgiving playing a big part in healing. Forgiving does not mean the offender should not face consequences for their actions. Not to forgive is to let the offending person “live in your head without paying rent” (trite but true). Instead you pay the price while they live on usually care free while you fester.

      • @chaplain martin,

        “Not to forgive is to let the offending person ‘live in your head without paying rent’ (trite but true). Instead you pay the price while they live on usually care free while you fester.”

        Self-interest is exactly the correct and wisest reason to ‘let go’.
        To LET GO is moral and right.
        To Forgive is immoral and disastrous.

      • Chaplain…..thank you so much for your post….I have been struggling for years with the trauma of abuse from my sister in law. Your graphic picture of her taking up residence in my head has given me a jolt of reality. I hate that she lives there, that I have given her permission to live there. In a way, it’s like I have some kind of control over her, but you have stated the truth…she has gone on to the next victim and my trauma is not on her radar, or anywhere in her memory. I will work on getting an eviction notice to her ASAP……..thank you so much for your words of truth…I am so comforted and encouraged to take emotional action…….

  22. Jesus never said anything about accepting apologies. He said we are to forgive people.

    I don’t really care whether Mr. Driscoll is sorry for what he did or sorry he got caught doing it. I do care that he stop doing these things, and he can start by resigning his position. That would be much better than an apology.

  23. Kathy Baldock

    I can’t even get past the title of the post. The whole “should” culture of evangelicalism drives me nuts!
    It’s the expectation that we all need to be on the same page about any issue — take your pick — or the page we are on is wrong.
    We have various points of views, lives, pain points, ways we engage and love and think and reason.
    Better title MIGHT be “Why I Accept mark Driscoll’s Apology.”

  24. David Vanderveen

    Wouldn’t this be more newsworthy if it was less predictable?

    http://sojo.net/blogs/2012/01/22/he-said-she-said-driscolls-real-marriage-really-not

  25. All this Driscoll drama just makes me more amazed that Christians still run on the same kind of leadership paradigm that the world uses. People still follow the loud, “visionary” leader with some kind of charisma that attracts followers. I’ve met so many wonderful Christian leaders over the years, but seldom does anyone really try to emulate their lives. We’d much rather follow charismatic people who make a lot of noise; even after they prove they’re not worthy to be followed. Forgiveness should be a given, but following people should come through proven character. Driscoll has a poor track record. Love and forgive him; just don’t follow him. There really are plenty of others. You just have to look harder because they’re not trumpeting themselves and they tend to not publish many books. Or, strike your own course.

  26. I don’t believe that Mark Driscoll is above reproach. He has managed to repeatedly soil the name of Christ with his brashness and haughty attitude. This latest debacle is only proof positive that he has clearly not learned from his mistakes. He has already proved to repeat them. I say call for him to step down from his leadership role. He is not fit to lead. Put a bit in his mouth before he shames the name of Christ once more.

  27. Dean Dickens

    I’ve followed Driscoll for years, pretty intently, and I’ve found that it literally doesn’t matter what he does, someone somewhere will find something to be mad at him about, and I honestly don’t understand it. People hate on Driscoll because it’s cool to hate on Driscoll. I won’t deny that the man has messed up, but he also repents of it. How many of us can say the same? I know I often can’t. Mark Driscoll has never been the problem in American evangelicalism, it’s the brother’s and sisters who slander him so childishly that are the problem here.

  28. Forgiveness vs. acceptance of apology. Yes, for followers of Jesus, it is a given that we must forgive Mark. That is true whether he apologizes or not. Of course, forgiveness and trust are two different things, and having badly broken trust, Mark must re-earn trust through a sustained pattern of changed behavior.

    So, what does it mean to “accept his apology” (which presumably is something different than forgiveness which does not need to be linked to an apology)? My instinct is to welcome his apology and hope that his changed behavior proves it to be sincere. If that is accepting his apology, I accept it. But if accepting his apology means accepting it as sincere, as expressing a genuine change of heart, then for me accepting it in this sense will depend on seeing a changed pattern of behavior consistent with repentance.

    For me, a key to demonstrating his sincerity would be voluntarily stepping aside from church leadership for a season to work on these issues with appropriate help. That could indicate that he recognizes the seriousness of his sin and how it has hurt other people. The absence of such a step would almost certainly indicate that he minimizes the damage he has done (or that he cares more about holding onto power than he does about taking responsibility for that damage).

    To me it seems obvious that Mark does not meet the biblical qualifications for an elder. It would be wonderful if he would step aside from leadership, do his work, and someday return to leadership as a humble, gentle person who does meet those qualifications.

  29. I don’t think you understand the difference between forgiveness (that all believers should get) and disqualification of a leader that Mark Driscoll’s actions have surely done.

    Yes Driscoll should be forgiven but the bible does talk about qualifications for an elder/leader. Mark Driscoll’s actions have certainly disqualified him. Sadly this disqualification hasn’t happened with most leaders including C.J. Mahaney, Bill Gothard, Dough Phillips etc.

  30. Chaplain Martin

    Merritt hopes that Mark is starting on another path. “One that is isn’t so angry and arrogant, sex-obsessed and sexist, dishonest and defensive.”
    Mark Driscoll, apologizing for his behavior, reminds me of sexual abuse offenders who apologize and even claim “I won’t do it again”. Truth is Mark and the sexual abuse offender both have an addiction. Just maybe Mark’s addiction to being sex-obsessed and dishonest is not quite as pervasive.
    I’m reminded of Abigail Adams’ response to Thomas Jefferson when he begged her friendship back . She finally wrote “You have my friendship, but not my respect.” (She knew about Sally Hemmings.) How can you forgive or even have friendship with a person who keeps offending? I can say, “I forgive, but I’ll watch you like a hawk.”

  31. Hi Jonathan,

    I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments of this article.

    The only problem is that Driscoll did not apologize. When he does, you’re right. The community has a responsibility to accept it.

    Here’s the thing, if you go read his apology you’ll see that he apologized for how he said what he said, but not for what he said.

    That’s like punching someone in the face and then saying, “look, I’m sorry for how angry I was when I punched you in the face.”

    So I guess my question to you is, what is it about Driscoll’s apology that you accept?

  32. If no one showed up on Sundays, there would be nothing to step down from. If you don’t like him and don’t go to MH, move on to something that matters to you. If people want to keep showing up, MD will continue. Pretty simple equation. We need to run our own races and not run in someone else’s lane.

  33. I have spent much time considering my own transgressions in life and in consideration of what I must do to repent and find healing and restoration for myself, any victims of my bad behavior, and those that are in proximity to me as they watch how it all unfolds. If I repeatedly physically abused my wife or children and asked for forgiveness, would it be available and by whom? If I was a habitual thief and I asked for forgiveness, would it be available and by whom? If I regularly lied about virtually anything and asked for forgiveness, would it be available and by whom? If I stood in front of an audience and powerfully spoke of how wrong it is to physical abuse your family, steal, and lie, at what point does hypocrisy become a stumbling block for those that listen intently at the “do as I say rather than as I do” teaching. Of all of the sermons, talks, and teachings that are God-inspired each week around the world, does the amount of time in defense of bad actions and whether they should be forgiven and by whom stand the test of God’s gifted calling of others to a Christ-centered existence. What did Jesus mean when He told the man that was healed, “Don’t return to a sinning life or something worse might happen”? What did Jesus mean when He told the adulterous woman, “Go and sin no more.”? There is most assuredly forgiveness as many times as is asked for. But there are also consequences of sin that cost not only the sinner but those that surround and listen week in and week out about what it means to become more like Jesus. I wish Mark Driscoll all of the best as a son of the Most High God. But maybe healing for himself and others will come when he decides that standing on a stage in the spot light preaching at others is replaced with a contemplative and deeper understanding of sinning no more or something worse might happen. My peaceful prayers go with him.

  34. Not that you’ll read my comment–because you are very important blogger with a “publishing history” and all–but, I have a question about this:

    “But I accept Driscoll’s apology and other Christians should too.”

    What does it even mean for you to “accept” his apology? Were you harmed or offended by any of his words or actions in the past? If so, what does your willingness to forgive entail on your part? No more “scathing” blog posts about him? More than that?

    If you weren’t actually harmed by his words or behavior, then, quite frankly, who are you to say you accept his apology? Who are you to extend, via a mere rhetorical gesture, forgiveness to him? Aren’t you pre-empting the voice of–and daring to preach to, but as a blogger of note to be sure– anyone actually harmed by his vile expressions and actions?

    If there is a thing called “cheap forgiveness” you might have just stepped in it.

    • @ Eric
      I personally was not harmed by Driscoll’s commentary – but I find him very obnoxious and am troubled to see how terribly and deeply he has wounded others.

      Indirectly, he has hurt me and others. I am a woman, and the idiot (Driscoll) has some incredibly, entrenched sexist views about women. Views about gender such as his are one reason of a hundred why I am departing from Christianity and no longer attend church. I keep seeing Christians such as him getting press and media attention, and he’s a sexist cretin.

      • @Sunset,

        I agree with everything you said here. Which is why I don’t understand James “The Media” Merritt is making a sweeping call for forgiveness.

  35. I agree with much of Rachel Held Evan’s post, which is much farther below.

    Driscoll has a very long history of this pattern, where he mistreats people, or says very detestable things, gets called to task for it, then issues an apology on social media, but then reverts right back to the same behavior.

    It’s fine for those abused to forgive Driscoll (if they so choose), but forgivness does not necessarily include or entail 1. reconciliation or 2. no penalties for the misbehavior.

    Driscoll should resign as preacher, never work as a clergy person again, and if he refuses to step down, be kicked out of his position as preacher by his church members, and people should stop purchasing his books and other materials. He is not fit to be a preacher at all.

    Are we all going to be having this same conversation another ten years from now, where more Driscoll shenanigans (he likes that word) ensues, people are calling for an apology, he gives one, and we see yet another “as Christians, we are called to forgive this guy again and again and again.”

    Yeah, sure, forgive all you want, but kick his rear end out of a position of authority and influence. Or else we will be here again in another three, five, or ten years when more news leaks of the latest vile thing he’s said or done.

  36. Mr. Merritt,

    You are correct, there are SOME who want Mark shamed. And yes, it’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and hurl crap at someone. But… that is not what most of the people who are deeply involved in seeking the discipline of Mark are in it for. I know these people and am one of them. As with many of these people, Mark was my friend and my pastor. I was part of the team that planted Mars Hill. I served in various capacities under Mark from 1995-2008. I know Mark Driscoll.

    You need to know that most of us are not out for revenge or the absolute destruction of Mark. Ultimately, we want our brother back and to see healing and restoration from years of abuse. That said, the recent video Mark put saying that reconciliation attempts have been made difficult by anonymity are consistent with other PR moves by Mars Hill to appear to the current congregants and general public that they are trying to address past wrongs. They are not and we are not anonymous. That is why citing scriptures about forgiving your brother “seventy times seven” or other statements regarding cutting Mark some grace are so hard to swallow. We absolutely believe in and practice those things. However, Mark is not apologizing. He has lied repeatedly, and is not seeking reconciliation with a single person that has sought it with him. He is implementing a PR strategy to protect his brand. That is all he is doing. I pray for the day that Mark does seek to repair and heal but you are mistaken to believe that he has any intention of doing that right now.

    This leads me to a rebuke.

    The problem I have with your editorial and others like it is that you don’t know any of the people involved and yet, you perceive yourself as some kind of authority. You don’t know the history whether good or bad, you don’t know the backgrounds of the people involved. From what I can tell don’t know anything except for what you’ve learned from the media scraps you’ve picked up. I am open to correction if I am wrong on this. Before telling others how to think, you should educate yourself more thoroughly first.

    As a brother in Christ, I hope you consider what to say here.

  37. I must admit, I took offense to your title Jonathan, that I should forgive Mark Driscoll. Whether I do or not is between me and God and no one has the right to tell me what I should do. That sort of authoritarian language is exactly what some leaders use to spiritually abuse and manipulate people. Someone from the pulpit says “should”, especially “Christians should,” and some will automatically start to feel guilt and shame knowing that they do not. But I thought I’d give you the benefit of the doubt, that perhaps you were purposely mimicing such tactics to make a point. Well, when you reduced the critics of Mark Driscoll to a vampirish gaggle, I realised I was not wrong to take offense in the first place. Please don’t use your position to heap coals on the heads of people already abused, or on those who stand for truth and justice.

  38. I think this opinion piece points up my confusion about when its appropriate to talk about “forgiveness,” and when we are in other territory, with other concerns. Most of us would agree that priests who abuse children should be removed from their positions. Forgiveness is not impossible even in that situation — but no matter how much a priest says he’s sorry and could he please just get back to work — we would like that priest removed. So it is with Driscoll — from all I’ve read, this is a man with some serious problems. I don’t hate him, but I don’t know that someone with this sort of track record doesn’t need some serious help before he is placed in a leadership position. Any one of his problems taken all by itself might be a reason for a minister in another ordination to be removed from their position. Plagiarism, mismanagement of funds, uncontrolled anger –these are signs of a man out of control, talking about “forgiveness” seems entirely beside the point. Let’s think about one of those times when Jesus said something about the Pharisees as a whole –I don’t know that he was incapable of forgiving them, but he was also willing to say the truth about their misguided ideas and the damage they had done. Maybe when people say they are unwilling to “forgive” Driscoll, what they mean is they do not want to see him returned to leadership again. We simply have not got the right language to say what we mean.

  39. You say “type your little heart out in the comment section. I won’t read it.” I wonder why I write, because this is mostly for you, Jonathan. I attended MHC for 7 year. A stereotypical story of a broken girl meeting Jesus and became a new Christian at MHC – it was beautiful. Married, served, and was is leadership beside my husband there. I can tell you every detail of the beauty and ugliness I experienced in this church, but this forum is not the place to elaborate on it all. As you ask us to have grace, I agree. However it is truly hard to forgive when there is no authentic repentance. I’ve listened to every word by Mark since my departure in 2013; hoping, searching and praying that I would hear something, at the least a little tiny shred of real, honest, authentic repentance so my heart would be set free from this sadness for him, the church, and myself. I have not heard a shred of an apology in the media I’ve hear and read. Everything seems to be a means in which to address the external opposition, but not the core issues. So while you ask us to have grace, we are still burdened by the sins of our [former] pastor.

    This maybe an extreme analogy, but it feels like he has punched us in the gut with his lies (and the lies other have had to tell us for him), then says, “I am truly sorry that hurt,” not apologizing for the motives behind the actions. So we, as members and former members, have to except an apology that is not real and allow the abuse to continue? I hope not…

    My hope is that voices continue to be heard. I know several who have still yet to talk about their experiences at MHC and the abusive ripple effect Mark fueled at the church. After years of oppression and fear people are speaking out, in love. That in itself is graceful.

    • “After years of oppression and fear people are speaking out, in love. That in itself is graceful.” Jane that is beautifully said. Well done. Mr. Merritt may never read your comment and shame on him for that. You have spoken wisely and you have spoken truth. More importantly, you have spoken for millions of others (not just from MHC) who have been spiritually abused and manipulated. Others who will be right this moment (because I am one of them) sighing a huge sigh of relief that they are not alone. That someone else gets it. That someone else is standing up and so they can too. Well done, good and faithful servant.

  40. Just because one gives an apology doesn’t mean one doesn’t suffer the repercussions of one’s choices.

    We should accept the apology, but that doesn’t mean we have to trust him. It doesn’t mean he gets a free pass from being held accountable. It doesn’t mean he even needs to be liked. It means he needs some men in his life to restore him, because an apology doesn’t equal true heartfelt repentance. His M.O. seems to be get caught in scandal, apologize (to a point), but no real change ensues.

    I don’t know him, but I have never liked his public persona. He has always come across as pompous and arrogant, seemingly above any sort of accountability. He seems to relish in the whole “in your face” stuff, many times without seeming biblical warrant. He seems to want to bill himself as a real Christian renegade without fighting for anything of true eternal value. I don’t see how he has helped the kingdom of God at all with his tactics. In fact, I think he has hurt the cause more than helped.

    Honestly, he needs to step down as pastor so he doesn’t drag his church down with him. He needs to take some real quality time with The Lord to truly find himself. I pray he can be restored.

  41. I often read your articles and never feel the need to comment. But I read this one and just wanted to say, good job, Jonathan Martin. Have not been a Mark Driscoll fan from the first time I heard his name, but your article is wise and graceful. As should be.

  42. Sorry. Christian here who attend this “church” with a friend for 8 months and clearly saw problems and lies. I will forgive when I see true penance. How many times do people have to be lied to and accept forgiveness before they realize they themselves they are a fool?

    No sympathy for Driscoll or anyone who associates themselves with this religious group, past or present. This group has promoted and taught a level of hate for anyone but themselves. You reap what you sow.

    Jesus taught me to be prudent. Accepting Driscoll’s lie of an apology is not prudent.

  43. Jonathan,
    I’m very much on the outside looking in regarding all things Mark-Driscoll-related. But when I read sentences like, “So type your little heart out in the comment section. I won’t read it.”, it does not seem helpful. Because attitude.

    Istm that accepting Mark’s apology is not the real issue, and to treat the reluctance of some folks to accept his apology immediately as if that must be motivated by a hardhearted under-appreciation of grace, rather than as a caution fueled by a concern for the spiritual welfare of all concerned (including Mark) may be an oversimplification on your part.
    It sort of looks like some folks may be wondering — and not without reason — if Mark’s apology means that he is genuinely repentant and willing to submit to church discipline, or if it is a case of, “Cease-fire; I need to reload.” Others might be wondering if a casual forgiveness would send the wrong message — and if they have the right to forgive, inasmuch as others have been injured as well. All these things seem to be in the equation, and I would advise that they should not be casually overlooked or dismissed as if they are not worth your consideration.

  44. There’s a relevant saying in the Bible “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” MD can apologize as many times as he wants but if there’s no change in behavior at some point, then it’s not repentance. Rather like the thief who apologizes for getting caught.

  45. Shame on you!

    I have only come across Driscoll in the last month stumbling on some YouTube sermons and I was impressed. I then downloaded his app and have gone through many of his sermons while commuting. THEY ARE GREAT! Only in the last week have I seen that the SHEEPLE are attacking him. How pathetic. I know why, because he is too radical, and you want vanilla! Just like Christ was too painfully right. I doubt that this man has never been wrong. But what you persecute him for, honestly be ashamed of yourselves. His only mistake is becoming too popular and putting himself out in mainstream media with non politically correct truths.

  1. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  2. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  3. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  4. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  5. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  6. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  7. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  8. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  9. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  10. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  11. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  12. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  13. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  14. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment

    […] Jonathan Merritt says that Christians should accept Driscoll’s apology and forgive him, noting that Jesus’ command to forgive one’s enemy isn’t optional. He says, “This means that there must be grace for the abused and the abuser, for the oppressed and the oppressor, for Mark Driscoll and for all those he has hurt. If we Christians have now arrived at a point where grace has run dry or is only available to some, let us abandon this whole Jesus way and join those who have no hope.” […]

  15. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  16. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  17. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  18. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  19. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  20. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  21. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment

    […] Many today are concerned about forgiveness of Mark Driscoll despite his lame attempts at apologies. Has Matthew 18 been followed? Yes. Driscoll has been confronted endlessly, including by his own elders. Has the Church been gracious? Yes. For Matthew 18 has not been fully carried out. For Matthew 18 says that, long ago, Driscoll should have been treated as an outcast of God, excommunicated from the very name “Christian.” But he continued to deceive enough people to financially prop up the dysfunction for years and years. Driscoll hasn’t been treated as an outcast, not on FreeAtLast, and not even by most of his critics. Driscoll should be reminded that his critics have a charitable view of Matthew 18 even as Driscoll and others try to rework it. “Public opinion” speaking against Driscoll and others is the Church following protocol! […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments with many links may be automatically held for moderation.