You probably read that headline and thought, “tell me something I don’t know.”
It’s not exactly breaking news that Mark Driscoll doesn’t like critics. He really doesn’t like them when they come in the form of “internet bloggers”. (As opposed to those people who blog off the internet?)
Of course, Driscoll is not alone in his disdain for critics. Nobody likes to be criticized. I don’t. Criticism hurts, especially when it’s true.
What makes Driscoll different than other public figures who have battled critics is that he doesn’t simply dismiss them, nor does he accuse them of spreading falsehoods. Instead, he tries to frame the issue of criticism in spiritual terms as we see demonstrated in this latest video posted by Mars Hill.
For Driscoll, on one side you have critics: lazy, bitter, angry, trouble makers who sit around pointing out everything churches/celebrity pastors are doing wrong without taking any action on their own part to correct the perceived problems.
On the other side are the servants: noble, loyal, peaceful Christlike disciples who offer their unwavering, no questions asked support to their church/celebrity pastor and when they do see something wrong they take action.
So to recap: critics are lazy sinners who just complain all the time. Real Christians follow their leader and don’t ask questions.
Aside from the fact that this clip is a thinly veiled attempt to dismiss the mountain of criticism directed his way, like a lot of Driscoll’s theology his argument is both ridiculously absurd and ironically un-Biblical.
For starters, everybody’s a critic. Literally. All of us. We’ve all criticized things or people and we will continue to do so for the rest of our lives.
So has Mark Driscoll.
Every time he gets on stage to yell and scream about a satanic movie, demonic exercise, or effeminate/n0n-reformed theological position he is criticizing something.
And that’s ok. Criticism, when it’s constructive (and even sometimes when it’s not) is a good thing. Criticism helps us do what we are often incapable of doing ourselves: seeing our own mistakes. If we have the courage to listen to those criticisms and learn from them, then criticism can be a mechanism for growth.
More importantly, there are few things we encounter more often in the Bible than criticism of the people of God, which makes me really confused as to what Bible Mark Driscoll is reading.
When Moses comes down the mountain and yells at the people of God for not living up to their covenant with God he’s being a critic.
When Samuel holds Saul and David accountable for being imperfect kings he’s being a critic.
When the Psalmist cries out to God “why have you forsaken me?” he’s being the boldest critic of all by criticizing God’s fidelity.
The second half of the Old Testament is entirely devoted to critics. We call them prophets. Their job was to call the people of God to account for not being faithful to God. They did this by criticizing the way they lived and the way they worshiped.
Then, of course, you have that guy named Jesus in the gospels. When he’s not healing sick people or preaching to the masses he’s criticizing the religious establishment.
But the Bible isn’t done with criticism after the resurrection. Much of Paul’s letters (as well as the other New Testament writers) are full of criticism of the churches he was righting too. He wasn’t being “mean” or “un-Christian”. He was holding them to account so that they could learn from their mistakes and grow into the people of God they professed to be.
The tradition of ecclesiastical criticism, though, doesn’t stop with the Bible.
The early church fathers, not least of all St. Augustine, were constantly criticizing their opponents for false teaching.
Two of Mark’s great reformed heroes, Martin Luther and John Calvin, were two of the greatest church critics of all time.
Jump ahead to the modern era and we have people like Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, and countless others who criticized the church for the way it was treating people.
So, despite what Driscoll may want you to believe, the truth is that some of God’s best servants were also some of the church’s greatest critics.
But here’s where Mark’s bifurcation of critics and servants really falls apart….
ALL of these Biblical and post-Biblical critics actively pursued the change they called for. They didn’t just sit at home complaining, they confronted kings in their throne rooms, stood up in the heart of the temple, nailed their grievances to a church door, led marches, lived with the oppressed, and even gave their lives.
Mark Driscoll’s dismissal of critics out of hand as lazy trouble makers only demonstrates his inability to respond effectively to their critiques. He tries to frame his critics as false Christians, or wolves among the sheep, so that way he can ignore them by claiming some sort of spiritual high ground because “real Christians” shouldn’t let themselves be distracted by Satan’s attempts to thwart the preaching of the gospel.
The reality, of course, is that much of the criticism directed his way isn’t the devil’s handiwork. Many of Mark’s critics are genuine disciples of Christ, concerned that the things he preaches and the way he leads his flock are not reflective of the Jesus he claims to serve.
Like it or not, what happens at Mars Hills reflects on all of us. That’s why we criticize and that’s why we actively try to do something about it.
Sure there are critics out there who sit at home, never go to church, and criticize everything, never do anything about the problems they see. But that is absolutely not true of everyone. For Mark to pretend that it is in order to simply ignore the criticism is…. well…. lazy.
Grace and peace,