March 19, 2014

Caring Enough to Wonder if What Just Happened, Happened

by Eric Davis

driscollMark Driscoll’s recent apology has provided for some thoughtful and edifying discussion.

And as we discuss, it’s best for us to remember a few things: We need to love and pray for him. We need to remember that we’re not omniscient. And we need to hope for the best and pray accordingly.

And in doing so, the church as the opportunity to grow from this. Questions are being raised. Ideas are being circulated. But there have been too many erroneous assertions and objections in the mix.

Here are a few categorically unhelpful ideas buzzing throughout evangelicalism regarding the Driscoll apology:

1. “Concern for the genuineness of one’s repentance is equivalent to a refusal to forgive.”

This has been fired off in response to concerns raised regarding the pattern of unrighteousness in Driscoll’s ministry. But such a concern is not inherently unforgiving. A refusal to forgive (or accept an apology) responds to the request, inwardly with personal anger, resentment, and bitterness towards the person. There’s no interest in restoration, only prosecution. In that case, the consequence of the refusal to forgive is no concern for the individual’s repentance.

Forgiving (or accepting another’s apology) has a deep view of love. It understands that we’re wretches, deserving of the Father’s righteous wrath for eternity and, therefore, eagerly extends forgiveness to those who request it. So, this person says, “Of course I forgive you/accept the apology,” and without delay.

Now, when there is a pattern of unrighteousness, then biblical love implements additional soul-care provisions subsequent to forgiveness because it sees a big-picture view of that individual and the kingdom.

changeConsequently, this person now says, “Because I respect the Lord, his high view of your personal holiness, his word, your profession, and the influence you have, I am concerned for your future sanctification. Like I am capable of doing, you’ve wandered this same way from the fold before. You need a different approach.” It’s about a different type of care. So, concern for the genuineness of one’s repentance is not automatically refusal to forgive. And if our “believing the best” refuses to see this big picture of the individual, it’s no longer believing the best, but ignoring the fruit. And to do so is fundamentally uncaring, both to the individual and those they influence.

So, especially when a pattern exists, concern for the genuineness of one’s repentance is will accompany a loving desire to forgive.

2. “Waiting for fruits of repentance is unnecessary and unloving.”

This widespread error is concerning and one that needs to be quickly laid to rest. If it persists, evangelicalism will not be able to move forward in: 1) actually loving those who are repentant and those who are not and 2) know who to hold up as influential leaders.

Now, at issue here is what does it mean to “wait for fruits of repentance”? It means that, because of one’s understanding biblically and scripturally of the deceitfulness of sin, the battle therewith, and a knowledge of the individual’s pattern, the individual’s apology is received. They are prayed for to bear fruit. Affirmation that all is spiritually well is slow, waiting until a pattern of fruit is observed. That righteous pattern needs to significantly oppose/put-off the former patterns of unrighteousness, erring on the side of longer than shorter.

This is plain wisdom. And it’s loving.

But it’s being argued, “You don’t know someone’s heart,” to buttress the claim that it’s unloving to wait for fruits of repentance. But that backfires. Precisely because: 1) we do not know one’s heart and 2) a pattern exists, therefore, deeper, biblical love will wait. That is fundamental soul-care informed by a right anthropology, soteriology and pneumatology.

fruit takes timeIt’s not much different than when someone seems to come to faith in Christ. We rejoice, pray with them, and encourage them to bear fruits of repentance. Similar to George Whitefield, for example, the wise disciple-maker is joyful about the repentant’s profession, but also encourages fruit-bearing, obedience, and waits to celebrate. Thirty, sixty, and one hundred-fold can take time. Repentance is demonstrated, not in hours and days, but weeks and months. And to encourage otherwise, especially someone with a pattern of error, is unloving.

These are souls we’re talking about. It matters not what position we may have outward, such as pastor, author, professor, etc. Nothing but the sovereign work of the Spirit causes true repentance. And if it happens, like Zaccheus, there will be a public, radical restoration of wrong done.

So, those claiming to love Driscoll more love him less when they chide those who express concern about his repentance. It’s a myopic view of love, Christ, and the kingdom. This is not about a refusal to extend love but a request to give it: to encourage a broader-scoped, soul-care to both him and his huge wake of influence.

It is concerning that many applauding an apparent repentance today were yesterday chiding anyone claiming it was necessary. One day, it’s, “He’s not sinning and how dare you suggest that.” The next, it’s, “He turned from his sin and how dare you wonder about that.” Are we really this worldly in our definition of care and love? Tragically, it appears so.

But there’s an inconsistency here; something else is going on. It appears to be much about the man, but not much what the man is about. Such an attitude demonstrates, not greater, but a lesser love; not a bigger kingdom concern, but smaller. So, its unloving to say it’s unloving to wonder about one’s repentance.

Sheep could be bleating, and we’re closing our ears. Its not unloving to listen for it anymore than it’s unloving to put a fence on the edge of a cliff. Rebellion is as divination and insubordination as idolatry.

 3. “You wouldn’t want people to accept your apology while encouraging you to examine yourself and bear fruit of repentance, so practice the golden rule and don’t do that to others.”

This is a narrow view of the golden rule and detrimental to one’s soul. If we had a pattern of personal unrighteousness, and especially if we had a large wake of influence in our pastoral position, and wouldn’t want that kind of shepherding and exhortation, then it’s likely we’re ruled by the flesh.

That kind of thinking reflects a anemic view of Christian discipleship. It wants toleration, but not sanctification; applause, but not shepherding; flattery, but not oversight. It’s a view of sanctification which borders on welcoming the flesh, but not the Spirit.

The spiritually-minded wants those around them to say, “We forgive you. And because of this pattern in your life and our love for you, we will encourage you to bear fruit of repentance, while waiting before we celebrate radical change in your life.” Anything less would be irresponsible to the individual, his Lord, and those he influences.

4. “Expressing concern for Driscoll’s pastoral qualification is unloving, unforgiving, and beside the point.”

Among other things, this line of thinking shows a low view of Christ’s church.

it happensSay (hypothetically, of course), when I was 16, I crashed my father’s car into a ditch on a Friday night with a few friends in the car. I then tell me dad, “I’m sorry,” pay for the damage, and I’m back driving again in a few weeks. Three months later, I ram into a friend at school with a packed car. Again, I make the apology, restitution, and back behind the wheel. It happens a third time. Every time, my father accepts my apology. And because he loves me, he subsequently removes my driving privileges after multiple mishaps. Why? Though my apology may be sincere, I have demonstrated that I am not fit to handle the responsibility of driving myself, whether alone or accompanied by others. There comes a time when those who love me most must remove me from the position of responsibility and stop affirming me as helpful to oversee and influence others.

loveIt’s a level of love that is broad in scope: for them, their soul, their long term walk with the Lord/perseverance, and those they influence (1 Tim 5:22, Jam 3:1).

If I demonstrate fruit of unrighteousness, especially in the public sphere in which I have great influence, to subsequently wonder about my pastoral qualification is in no way cynical, but biblical; not a lesser love, but greater; not uncaring for his soul, but more caring; not pessimistic, but realistic.

And for someone who influences approximately hundreds of thousands, the urgency is heightened.

5. “If a pastor apologizes for large scandals, then he should remain in his position and place of influence.”

This is the idea that since an apology occurred, all is well, no adjustments are needed, and just applaud. And not only that, those who indicate that anything else besides applauding should be done are to be snubbed.

But, with respect to this erroneous thinking, evangelicalism needs to seriously consider the damage being done to the pastorate, the holiness of the church, Christ’s honor, and our greater witness here. Indifference here is not without consequences.

careIt’s in the best interests of the individual, the body of Christ in our day, and our witness that the individual is loved enough to be removed. And maybe this necessary move will happen. As of today, it appears it has not.

Consider a shepherd who has an influential sheep, among the others, which has wandered off multiple times, each time giving apparent apology. What will that shepherd do to that influential sheep?

First, in the flock’s and sheep’s best interests, if the sheep apologizes, the shepherd heartily accepts the sheep’s apology. The shepherd feels compassion and instantly forgives.

Second, in the flock’s and sheep’s best interests, other sheep are encouraged to pray for that sheep.

Third, in the flock’s and sheep’s best interests, that sheep needs a change of position since it currently is prone to wander from its place.

HelpFourth, in the flock’s and sheep’s best interests, that influential sheep must be pulled back indefinitely from a place of influence. It’s unable to function as a healthy sheep in that position and so it’s unloving to leave things as they are. If nothing is done, then others are deceived into thinking, “That’s someone I should enthusiastically follow.” But that cannot be said until there has been a long pattern of wise sheep-dom living. And the wise shepherd there will err on the side of longer than shorter lest that shepherd share responsibility in the fall of others. How much time? Enough to be sure that there is fruit of repentance and enough to be confident that the sheep will not wander and lead others likewise.

Bottom line: When a dog returns to the vomit multiple times, the dog needs elevated care. And the dog’s companions and supporters need to love him enough to distance him far from familiar paths to his vomit. And when the sheep wanders off the same cliff, that sheep needs loving help to distance him farther from the cliff, both for his good and his followers.

For some reason, too many are unwilling to call vomit, vomit and the cliff, a cliff. And those who have necessarily done so get blacklisted.

But if my movement or sphere or leaders or denomination will not help move me in a different direction, then they think wrongly about me as a soul, the office of pastor, the nature of influence, Christ, and his kingdom. Love has become shallow and grown cold. But love will wonder if what happened, happened. If sheep are bleating in the background, we need people loving enough to hear it and help.

Eric Davis

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Eric is the pastor of Cornerstone Church in Jackson Hole, WY. He and his team planted the church in 2008. Leslie is his wife of 14 years and mother of their 3 children.
  • Guest

    Erm, concise. Interesting that the post with this title didn’t actually auto-post correctly. I’ll delete my own comment unless someone beats me to it when this gets resolved.

  • Todd Pruitt

    Spot. On.

  • Nathan Williams

    Eric, good article. I see Todd commented here and his article was eminently helpful. My concern is not with what you guys have written but with guys who respond to this whole thing with sarcasm and cynicism. The cynicism just doesn’t help make the case for genuine concern and legitimate questions.

    • Eric Davis

      Nathan-Agreed. This is too serious an issue to be addressed by only sarcasm and cynicism. We need to lay out the issues and address them biblically or we’re not helping.

  • Mick McDaniel

    It seems to me that Mark’s apology focused on mistakes of intention rather than wrongful actions. The expected response is to conclude that since he never had any specific intent to do wrong, he really didn’t do anything wrong. A few administrative adjustments can be made and Driscoll can continue to glorify himself. This is a stark contrast from David’s true repentance in Psalm 51. True humility and repentance glorifies God alone.

  • Cedric Fisher

    If there are no consequences for our sins, if all that we need to
    say is, “I’m sorry”, and all the bad vibes go away, then
    what is to prevent a serial offender from repeating his or her sin ad
    infitinum? God forgives us when we sincerely repent, but that does
    not necessarily prevent a harvest of the sin that we sowed. Cheat on
    your spouse and you will break his or her heart. It will not be
    instantly repaired by an apology. So it goes with the abuse of God’s
    people. Such sacred trust when broken will not be given again until
    the same quality and measure of fidelity is restored in the
    recipient. It takes more than an apology to restore the shattered
    vase; it takes repair, it takes time.

  • The issue/s could not have been made any more biblically clearer, or loving. Thanks for this.

  • I’m sure that it’s as sincere as his previous apologies.

  • So, is he, ah, stepping down as pastor? Isn’t a foundational attribute of a pastor to cultivate the trust of your flock? Now would be an ideal time for him not just to retire from “social media”, but from the pastorate in general.

  • Sharon

    I keep emphasizing that we can welcome him back as a brother in Christ “70 x 7” but pastors and church leaders are called to a higher standard as they lead the Lord’s flock. I think people are missing this distinction.

  • Brad

    I have been wondering whether or not Christian leaders should be those who are “out in front” when it comes to repentance. In other words, should Christian pastors be the ones who lead in modeling repentance and confession of their sins? I have to admit it is inspiring when my pastor confesses sin and repents. I feel like it sets the tone that we are all sinners and that daily repentance and confession of sin is at the heart of Christianity. But, at the same time, it seems like leaders should not be leading in repentance and confession since they are leaders and they are supposed to be leading the sheep into holiness. Has anyone written anything on the role of daily, ongoing, public repentance and confession of sin for the pastor?

    Thanks!

  • kevin2184

    Thanks for the perspective, Eric. Well done.

  • Susan Moore

    I really appreciate your response to this issue and the very wise counsel…hoping this will be read by many. Mark has an incredible opportunity set before him…he can lead by example and thereby show the way for so many others that he has influence over…displaying and enacting Godly repentance on his part would do so much more good for the Body of Christ than him staying the course he is currently on. He has preached an excellent message on Zaccheus (to include restitution which is sorely lacking at this point)…he just needs to go back and listen to himself and heed the counsel he gave others. We do need to pray for this man and those that surround him…the issues at hand simply cannot be ignored.

  • Brilliant! Thanks Eric!

  • Very well written, brother! I pray that this biblical treatment of the relationship between forgiveness and repentance spreads like wildfire to the masses. I was feeling alone on Mt. Carmel for a while….

  • Thanks Eric. Very well done.

    My disappointment on this issue is that what people are claiming as Driscoll’s repentance really isn’t marked by what I discern to be the ground-level, sine qua non fruit of repentance that is fitting for his particular case — namely, stepping down from ministry. When people say, “Hey! He’s repented! Forgive or else don’t be like Jesus!” what still nags at me is: Does he really grasp the gravity of the things he’s done if his first instinct of repentance isn’t, “I am no longer above reproach; I need to step down from ministry”?

    I understand how difficult of a thing that would be to do. I understand the enormous amounts of temptation to make exceptions to the standards of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 in light of what seems to be all the good that has come of his ministry. But without him recognizing that he needs to step down, it’s hard for me to believe that what he’s said/done is actually repentance.

    I don’t think that makes me cynical, a hater, or un-Christlike. Todd Pruitt’s excellent post sums this point up well:

    I am troubled when every conceivable explanation is used to excuse a man who has stretched the biblical command to be above reproach to the breaking point while those who dare to call a thing what it is are classified as “haters.” In pointing out these concerns, what is not happening here is hatred. It is far from hate. It is love for the church. Believe it or not, it is love for a man who, for the good of his own soul, may need to be steered away from the office of pastor by those who hold him accountable. Most of all it is love for our Lord and his reputation. It is love for his people who have suffered enough from our pastoral malpractice.

    • Eric Davis

      Mike-

      You and Todd bring up a critical and overlooked point here. There is this cycle of external consequences crashing down w/ an apology offered. But it seems that biblical repentance is something that extends beyond a response to external consequences to a shift of the soul so as to deeply address the pastoral malpractice.

  • Miranda

    How about we let Driscoll’s elders and leaders of his church be the ones to decide if he’s fit for ministry, or how to keep him accountable. I’m so sick (literally, I feel nauseous) of this Driscoll drama. He’s a great man who has done great things for the Lord. I know of many other pastors who have sinned pretty seriously while in ministry, but they (and the leaders serving under them) keep it behind closed doors. People love to drag Driscoll through the mud because his life is much more public, but would they be so quick to judge their own pastor if they found out about sin in his life? I don’t think so. The bottom line is this: What can WE going to do about this? We have no authority in Driscoll’s life, we only have opinions.

    • Dennis HC

      Hello Miranda, in light of the dramatic changes in the Mars Hill leadership structure which were specifically designed to concentrate power in the hands of Mark Driscoll, it’s not clear how much (if at all) other elders in his church even have the capacity to hold him accountable.

      Regardless, so long as he seeks out a highly public ministry — as he has historically, both intentionally and aggressively — his actual qualification or disqualification as an elder is very relevant to me, because he has influence or potential influence over people that I love and care for spiritually.

      On at least one level, however, you are right… at the end of the day, I have no control over whether or not Mark Driscoll continues in ministry. All I can do is advise and in some cases warn, and people will make up their own minds. In that same vein, however, my prayer is that people will not just listen to words, but also examine actions, or any lack thereof.

      • Miranda

        Thank you for your kind reply. Honestly, I would never think to “warn” my fellow believers against Driscoll’s teachings, because they are biblically solid.

        • Dennis HC

          And thank you for yours. I would certainly warn people in areas where Mark Driscoll’s doctrine differs from ours. And although he does appear to have an appreciation for the Bible, his teaching tends to be more pragmatic and sensational than I prefer (which may also be related to the dispute over his qualification, I believe, and moreover raises questions of motive).

          At the end of the day, I rejoice in his proclamation of the Gospel, but aside from that, with so many solid Bible teachers out there for me to listen to, I’d much rather listen to someone who is unquestionably qualified, and goes deeper into the Scriptures… by Mark Driscoll’s own admission, after all, he only spends about an hour preparing any given message.

          This has an impact not only on the depth of his teaching, but also in that he isn’t dragging his own heart through his own teaching for many hours each week, which is key for any pastor’s continuing growth and sanctification. And again, this may be related to the dispute over his qualification. Grace and peace to you, Miranda.

    • How about we let Driscoll’s elders and leaders of his church be the ones to decide if he’s fit for ministry, or how to keep him accountable. … The bottom line is this: What can WE going to do about this? We have no authority in Driscoll’s life, we only have opinions.

      We have no choice but to let Driscoll’s elders decide if he’s fit for ministry. You’re absolutely right that we have no ecclesiastical authority in his life. But no one was assuming that they did. I’m not sure what’s being offered fits squarely in the category of “opinions,” though, because these positions are being defended from Scripture. People are simply trying to wrestle through the implications God’s Word has given what’s happened in the life of this very public, and at times very shameful, pastor.

      Besides this, we’ve heard Driscoll speak about surrounding himself with those who agree with him and “his vision,” and removing those who don’t. If some discern that those elders themselves need to be held accountable in an unofficial way by publishing their views on this issue, I don’t see why they shouldn’t, as long as they remain respectful and civil.

      He’s a great man who has done great things for the Lord.

      Uninvited guest #5.

      I know of many other pastors who have sinned pretty seriously while in ministry, but they (and the leaders serving under them) keep it behind closed doors.

      The thing is, Driscoll’s elders haven’t been able to keep his sins behind closed doors. When one’s sin is public and affects many (especially when that person is an elder of a church), the issue needs to be dealt with in a public way, so as to address those whom have been affected.

      …but would they be so quick to judge their own pastor if they found out about sin in his life? I don’t think so.

      That is something you could never know, and so this amounts to a very uncharitable judgment of motives. It would break my heart to have to have this discussion about my own pastor, but if I’m faithful to Christ and if I love His Church I would be compelled to have it.
      That thought only makes me all the more grateful for men like my pastor, who has by God’s grace maintained integrity in the most public of ministries for the last 5 decades. May God be gracious to us as well, to keep us faithful in this highest of callings.

      • bmh

        “We have no choice but to let Driscoll’s elders decide if he’s fit for ministry. You’re absolutely right that we have no ecclesiastical authority in his life.”

        So given that fact and the fact that you are not under Driscoll’s authority as a pastor, wouldn’t all this then fall into “70 times 7 territory” where you then forgive him and move on…and then take the advice of “hope for the best for him and his elders decisions and pray and leave it with God?”

        Why does Cripplegate believe it is in a place to pass the harshest of judgments on Driscoll? See more on that below.

        You don’t like Driscoll, I get it, Mike. But I fail to see the value in “wrestling through the Scripture” on the back of a repentant brother? Or are you willing now to just get on with it and call him a wolfe’s in sheep clothing and a hypocrite? For that’s what Cripplegate’s conclusions over the last several years about Driscoll stongly imply. So why hold back when Cripplegate has crossed the Rubicon on your/their passive agressiveness?

        “When a dog returns to the vomit multiple times, the dog needs elevated care.”

        Actually Proverbs 26:11 suggests hell for the practitioner of this insinuation – for the life of the fool never ends well in Scripture. So did I miss the post where Mark Driscoll is officially labeled as an unrepentant false teacher/pastor in Cripplegate’s eyes?

        What is Cripplegate’s official stance now that it has waded into the realm of such judgment?

        • So given that fact and the fact that you are not under Driscoll’s authority as a pastor, wouldn’t all this then fall into “70 times 7 territory” where you then forgive him and move on…and then take the advice of “hope for the best for him and his elders decisions and pray and leave it with God?”

          BMH, did you read the comment I posted earlier in the thread? It answers the question you pose here.

          Why does Cripplegate believe it is in a place to pass the harshest of judgments on Driscoll?

          “Cripplegate” doesn’t believe anything. Clint, Jesse, Nathan, Eric, Lyndon, Mike, and others believe things, and often different things. None of us believes he is in a place to pass the harshest of judgments on Driscoll, and none of us has done so. Unfortunately, those for whom Driscoll is above criticism decide that any negative biblical evaluation must be “harsh.” Todd Pruitt’s words, which I quoted in my comment above, are worth repeating for you:

          I am troubled when every conceivable explanation is used to excuse a man who has stretched the biblical command to be above reproach to the breaking point while those who dare to call a thing what it is are classified as “haters.” In pointing out these concerns, what is not happening here is hatred. It is far from hate. It is love for the church. Believe it or not, it is love for a man who, for the good of his own soul, may need to be steered away from the office of pastor by those who hold him accountable. Most of all it is love for our Lord and his reputation. It is love for his people who have suffered enough from our pastoral malpractice.

          You don’t like Driscoll, I get it, Mike.

          This is not about something so superficial and shallow as “not liking” someone, BMH. To assume and allege it is is not only shortsighted, but is the same kind of uncharitable judgment of motives that I spoke of in my response to Miranda above. It always amazes me how arrogant and violent people can be when they rebuke other believers for being what they perceive to be as unloving.

          But I fail to see the value in “wrestling through the Scripture” on the back of a repentant brother?

          What a ridiculous characterization. First, as I explained in my first comment, the fact that he hasn’t stepped down from ministry leads me to believe that he hasn’t truly grasped the gravity of his sin, and thus isn’t “repentant” at all, in the sense that would mitigate my concern. Secondly, nobody put Driscoll in this situation but himself. We’re not “on his back.” As I said, a very public, and at times very shameful, pastor has brought reproach upon himself and his Savior, and as Carl Trueman pointed out, these failures are laid at the feet of all those would identify broadly with the stream of evangelicalism which Driscoll, in part, represents: “All of us who are thought of as Evangelical or Reformed now live with the bitter fruit of that failure of leadership.”

          Or are you willing now to just get on with it and call him a wolfe’s in sheep clothing and a hypocrite? For that’s what Cripplegate’s conclusions over the last several years about Driscoll stongly imply. So why hold back when Cripplegate has crossed the Rubicon on your/their passive agressiveness? … What is Cripplegate’s official stance now that it has waded into the realm of such judgment?

          You’re just ranting now. I can’t imagine how you could possibly perceive your comments as bringing grace or understanding to the discussion. For someone who seems to be championing love, forgiveness, and compassion for other professing believers, you sure have a tough time modeling those graces yourself.

          • Lexi

            Mike, you have to be honest with yourself and with everyone reading this. People who write for the Cripplegate are almost always the first ones to jump on any news relating to Driscoll. Seriously, when I first heard about Driscoll’s letter, I thought to myself “hmm, I wonder how long it is going to take the Cripplegate to take this one and run with it.” (the answer is less than a day, which wasn’t shocking to me in the least). I don’t know what good comes from it all. And you didn’t answer BMH’s question: Are you calling out Driscoll as a wolf in sheep’s clothing? If you’re not calling him out as a wolf to warn your fellow believers, then what in the world is the point of attacking him on the internet every chance you get?

          • Dennis HC

            Just as a clarification as to the timeline, Mark Driscoll’s letter came out on March 14. This article was written today, five days later, and only after a wave of articles and comments had already come out basically saying, “Hey, he made a humble-sounding statement, so everyone should get off his back.”

            So if you want, I suppose you could choose to attribute that to a Cripplegate axe to grind, but I’m choosing to attribute it to a measured and biblical response to a current issue after giving it some time and thought and letting the dust settle slightly.

          • Mike, you have to be honest with yourself and with everyone reading this. People who write for the Cripplegate are almost always the first ones to jump on any news relating to Driscoll.

            I’m certainly not being dishonest, Lexi. I don’t find your characterization to be true. But even if it was — even if Cripplegate writers (who are different people, by the way) were “almost always the first ones to jump on any news relating to Driscoll,” perhaps that indicates that something is terribly wrong with the evangelical subculture. Perhaps those closer to Driscoll should be (or at least should have been) more quick to police their own: as Carl Trueman said:

            The one thing that might have kept the movement together would have been strong, transparent public leadership that openly policed itself and thus advertised its integrity for all to see. Yet the most remarkable thing about the whole sorry saga, from the Jakes business until now, has been the silence of many of the men who present themselves as the leaders of the movement and who were happy at one time to benefit from Mark Driscoll’s reputation and influence.

            …less than a day….

            You may not have seen this until less than a day ago, but recognize that more time has passed than you may have realized.

            Carl Trueman’s piece was published six days ago: http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/03/mark-driscolls-problems-and-ours

            The Reddit “apology note” was published four days ago: http://www.reddit.com/r/religion/comments/20gg40/mark_driscoll_addresses_mars_hill_church/

            The Patheos post showed up the next day: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/mark-driscoll-apologizes-and-says-hes-changing-his-life-and-i-support-him/

            Christianity Today’s write-up came the day after that: http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2014/march/mark-driscoll-retracts-bestseller-status-resets-life.html

            Ortlund’s post showed up the same day: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/rayortlund/2014/03/17/what-just-happened-2/

            Todd Pruitt’s post at Ref21 was yesterday: http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2014/03/what-is-not-happening.php

            And Eric joined the discussion today. I don’t think it’s accurate to say that Cripplegate is always the first to respond. I appreciate Dennis’s comment above: “… I’m choosing to attribute it to a measured and biblical response to a current issue after giving it some time and thought and letting the dust settle slightly.”

            Are you calling out Driscoll as a wolf in sheep’s clothing? If you’re not calling him out as a wolf to warn your fellow believers, then what in the world is the point of attacking him on the internet every chance you get?

            Again, I think this is a mischaracterization from the beginning. First, I, personally, certainly am not attacking him every chance I get. Second, neither does Cripplegate do that. Third, if you’re asking for my personal view as to Driscoll being a wolf or not, I haven’t seen him teach the kind of damning false doctrine that would, in my judgment, earn that title. But I don’t think that he’s qualified to be an pastor/elder. There’s a big difference between saying he’s a wolf and that he’s not qualified for the pastorate. And just because I don’t think he’s teaching heresy, it doesn’t mean that I don’t think he’s teaching and practicing things that are harmful to the church which merit the warnings that are given.

          • Eric Davis

            Lexi-

            I have to agree w/ Mike here. Your comments are erroneous. Notice how many, and who, addressed this important situation. This article comes after many, and there are others which Mike did not list.

            But you’re right that Cripplegate writers often address big issues in evangelicalism. That’s part of what God calls the church to do in order to equip the saints, refute those who contradict, and help us all move towards being sound in the faith. And sadly, for various reasons, there is regularly a negative reaction to addressing error.

            There’s a note of irony in your comments: when you heard of the Driscoll situation, as you wrote, your first initial thought was an uncouth inclination towards the C-gate. Your concern that there would be an unfavorable inclination was accompanied by an unfavorable inclination.

            I say this in love to you, Lexi. These are serious matters. Lives are harmed. Our Lord’s name and witness can be marred. We have to be able to interact w/ things of this nature now and then for our Lord’s sake and the purity of the church. Thanks for stopping by, Lexi.

          • Lexi

            Ok, So I didn’t realize that the Driscoll news wasn’t as new as I thought. I’ll give you that. My point is, to many, your blog promotes controversy (whether it’s your intention or not). You say it’s all in love, but if it was, you would direct your opinions and concerns to Driscoll and not the Internet world. I hate the argument “if it’s a public sin then it should be addressed publicly.” I don’t think the bible says that. And yeah, I know Mike Riccardi wrote a blog post on that subject, so you don’t have to bother posting it in your reply.

          • Dennis HC

            Lexi, I am praying over this post and hope you will believe me when I say that it is said in love… but do you not see even a little bit of irony in defending Mark Driscoll by accusing others of promoting controversy?

            Leaders have a higher accountability, and leaders who sin (or teach wrongly, for that matter) are to be rebuked publicly. I know you don’t like this, and to be honest, I don’t particularly LIKE this either… but it is biblical, and sometimes we are called to do it.

            Again, peace and grace to you, Lexi.

          • Philip

            Lexi, can I suggest that it’s no so much that public sins need to be addressed publicly as it is that Driscoll chose to make his apology a public apology and therefore invites, and even requires, a public response. Driscoll addressed his apology to the “Internet world”, not his church and elders or accountability team. He made it a public issue, not the guys at Cripplegate.

            Eric, Mike, and others who have urged a more cautious approach are only doing what a Biblically faithful pastor should do for both their congregations and the church at large: examine the issues at hand through the lens of Scripture and encourage others to do the same. Eric has presented a careful, thoughtful, Biblical response, not even to Driscoll so much as the public response to Driscoll’s open letter. Discussions like this are helpful to the church, not harmful to the church.

          • bmh

            “None of us believes he is in a place to pass the harshest of judgments on Driscoll, and none of us has done so.”

            Mike, my point is that you can’t evoke the language of Proverbs 26:11 and then try to tap dance your way out of it. You guys constantly try to teeter on that edge, and then say “Oh no, we’re not saying THAT!” when the Scripture you evoke implies and leads to just that conclusion. Just read the meta here.

            Are you saying that the handling of Proverbs 26:11 above was just sloppy and/or reckless then?

            “It always amazes me how arrogant and violent people can be when they rebuke other believers for being what they perceive to be as unloving.”

            C’mon Mike, let’s be adults here. We’re both passionate about this issue without the need for this kind of deflection. I’m not defending Driscoll and I hope his elders do the appropriate thing here, but I’m also not publicly “wrestling” with his sin for sake of then wondering out loud if he’s a false teacher.

            “I can’t imagine how you could possibly perceive your comments as bringing grace or understanding to the discussion.”

            Well, thanks for giving ME that benefit of the doubt when raising a biblical concern, Mike. It never ceases to amaze me how discernment type blogs always fly off the handle when some raises a flag like this using Scripture. I don’t recall accusing you of anything, other than holding back the obvious conclusion you guys have been flirting with for several years. And remember, before you accuse me of being unloving, unreasonable and arrogant and violent again, this kind of tough love cuts both ways.

          • Dennis HC

            There are at least four different Hebrew words rendered as “fool” and only one (arguably two) means someone evil or unredeemed. In Proverbs 26:11, fool just means fool, and it’s a verse that is frequently used in various articles and sermons and elsewhere to refer to believers who keep repeating the same sin.

            Are you sure that’s what’s really bugging you here?

            As for public comment and critique, the incomparable Carl Trueman said it best this morning as to why it matters.

            http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2014/03/of-good-reputation-with-those.php

            Grace and peace to you, BMH.

          • bmh

            Hi Dennis, there’s a wider Scriptural context to consider here (from a salvific sense) regarding this passage as per Peter…that I think aligns well with the context that most pastors, teachers and theologians use when they evoke the verse. So while there may be wiggle room at the original language level, how this verse is used in common church vernacular and Reformed tradition doesn’t seem (to me) leave as much room:

            “It would have been better for them [false prophets/teachers] not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.” – 2 Peter 2:21-22

          • Dennis HC

            Honest question, do you do much biblical counseling? If so, I have to imagine you’ve counseled one or more professing believers, as I have, not to return to their own vomit, i.e. patterns of sin. When I’ve done that (and I pray it was done gently and with compassion), I’m exhorting them to holiness and trying to care for their souls… I’m not calling them an unbeliever.

          • So at this point, all that needs to be established is that Eric may have been using the “vomit” comment in the more general sense that Dennis is suggesting, and not necessarily aiming to imply that Driscoll is a false teacher headed for the black darkness (2 Pet 2:17). I doubt that was Eric’s intent, and never read him as suggesting as much.

            If your complaint is that it was a poor choice of words given the tradition of interpretation, we’ll count that as duly noted, and move on.

        • Eric Davis

          bmh-

          I see that you’re exercised about this issue, friend. I understand, as there is much at stake. Big picture, it’s concerning that you’re looking for avenues to excuse an unfortunate pattern; one that is quite obvious. I would point you also to Todd Pruitt’s and Carl Trueman’s articles, in addition to this one. But to digress, briefly, yes, I used Prov 26:11 in reference to how there has been a pattern in returning to various unfortunate scandals here. The Proverbs are general observations about life, both the good and not so much. From the Proverb’s standpoint, then, one can apply the idea of “returning to vomit” as in frequenting unrighteousness, w/o simultaneously having to fall into the caricature of a false teacher condemned to hell in 2 Pet.

          And to answer your question below about granting forgiveness and waiting for fruits of repentance, I think you’re missing the point. On a lesser note, it’s not so much about granting forgiveness. For one thing, Driscoll is not asking forgiveness from me or you or, it appears, anyone except his local church. And even then, the language seems to be a bit confusing as to whether he’s requesting forgiveness. Maybe he apologized. Maybe he repented. Maybe he did something else. Who knows. On a greater note, that point in no way precludes the importance, as mentioned in points 2, 4, and 5 above, of a greater level of care needed for an individual based on a clear pattern. Narrowing in on whether someone is accepting the apology or not is minute compared to the greater importance of shepherding in light of that pattern.

          • bmh

            “Big picture, it’s concerning that you’re looking for avenues to excuse an unfortunate pattern; one that is quite obvious”

            Really, Eric? Where did I do that? My objection is using another pastor’s sin as a springboard to get a few hits in particularly when such a pastor has apologized and you have no authority over him to take a great deal of license where none is given in Scripture. The right response here is to forgive and move on and trust that God will move the hearts of Mars Hill elders, not to inject yourself (if only by appearance) in that process.

            “From the Proverb’s standpoint, then, one can apply the idea of “returning to vomit” as in frequenting unrighteousness, w/o simultaneously having to fall into the caricature of a false teacher condemned to hell in 2 Pet. ”

            Unlike you and Mike, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt here and move on. Thanks for the response.

    • Eric Davis

      Miranda-

      Agreed, that we are not Driscoll’s elders. But that does not mean we cannot engage in biblical discussion in order to prayerfully bring clarity and edification to an issue over which there is much confusion, and often, unnecessarily. And it would not be best for you to assert that “people love to drag Driscoll through the mud b/c his life is much more public.” That’s a broad statement requiring near-omniscience. The bottom line is this: we need to speak truth in love in order that we might be sound in the faith, especially as it pertains to a very influential individual. Thanks Miranda

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  • Paul Yoon

    Thankful for your biblical, God-honoring, loving, and profound thoughts. May the Lord grant to all of us fruit keeping with repentance; and may we grow together in true love grounded in truth.

  • Paul Yoon

    Thankful for your biblical, God-honoring, loving, and profound thinking. May the Holy Spirit grant to us all fruit in keeping with repentance; and may we grow together in true love grounded in truth.

  • johntjeff

    Thank you very much for these wise words! They are both sorely needed, and well expressed. This is what I call “hitting the nails on the head”! We need more of such leadership counsel, much more.

  • Paul Yoon

    Thankful for your biblical, God-honoring, loving, and profound thinking. May the Holy Spirit grant to us all fruit in keeping with repentance; and may we all grow together in true love grounded in truth.

  • Frank Emrich

    I may have missed something, but where specifically does the scripture tells us that we are to judge another’s repentance? It is precisely because we are all people who sin that only the sinless One can judge and declare righteous. When Mark stands at the Bema do we really think The Lord Jesus is going to call any of us in as consultants to determine the genuineness of his repentance? As one of our brethren puts it in song, ” thank God I am redeemed.”

    • Eric Davis

      Frank-

      Thanks for stopping by. I agree that no human can be the ultimate determiner on another’s repentance. We’re not omniscient. And the purpose of this article was not to attempt to pronounce a final adjudication on Driscoll’s repentance. Rather, it was to bring clarity into some unhelpful ideas & misconceptions surrounding this situation.

      Also, to encourage a “waiting” regarding the bearing of fruit is neither a final adjudication of that repentance. Instead, it’s an approach of elevated love, operating in wisdom based on the pattern observed in the individual’s life. And the argument often offered backfires: since we are not omniscient and since we are commanded to love the person, therefore, we must accept the apology while loving them enough to wait for fruit to be observed as explained in #2 above. That is what is faithful to a professing brother and especially one in a position of pastoral leadership as we approach the Bema.

      • bmh

        “Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times ?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matt. 18:21-22

        Eric, how do we encourage a waiting here and not violate Jesus’ command to forgive a brother and to forgive freely when his forgiveness is final, total and without additional conditions? What additional verses would you bring to bear in this discussion that suggests we wait or do you see some other distinction here? If so, where is the line between adding additional conditions to forgiveness and being on guard against wolves in sheep’s clothing? In other words, isn’t the New Testament distinction between forgiving a brother immediate and the waiting you advocate for really a waiting on the repentance of an unbeliever rather than a brother asking for forgivness in the here and now?

        • Tim Eriksen

          I think you are taking a passage related to forgiving a brother in sin (which we should do) and using it to negate passages related to qualifications of a pastor/elder. Being above reproach doesn’t mean “having recently confessed.” It is about a pattern of life, a period of time that gives evidence of maturity. 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 seem clear.

          • bmh

            Tim, not at all. The question is whether or not we should forgive him, which by all biblical accounts would mean that we should be able to take a “I repent” from a brother sincerely and at face value. I don’t know how you can say “I forgive you, but I’m going wait to see if your apology takes this time.” That’s not real forgivness.

            Now as for qualifications of an elder, I agree with you. The problem is we have no authority over him. His elders have every right to sanction or remove him. I don’t think it is wise to play armchair quarterback using Mark’s situation as a springboard.

            So if we should forgive Mark, as you rightly say, then the article above is moot since you and I have no ecclesiastical authority over this pastor – unless we are back to deciding if Mark is in the fold and we should be warning about him. In which case, this would contradict earlier protestations that this is not going on.

          • …unless we are back to deciding if Mark is in the fold and we should be warning about him.

            BMH, this statement sounds like you believe that the only time it’s necessary to warn about another teacher is if he is a heretic, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Is that a correct characterization of your view?

            If so, is there any room in your thinking for a category in which a teacher is not teaching heresy, but who is teaching things and is behaving in such a way that is harmful to the church, such that the kind of warnings issued from men like Carl Trueman, Todd Pruitt, and others (including Eric) are warranted? I think that category exists, and so I find Eric’s post (and others like it) to be helpful.

            Again, you continue to insist that Driscoll’s letter constitutes repentance. But besides being very vague about his heavy-handed leadership, despite his not ever actually using the word “repent” or asking for forgiveness, and in light of the fact that he doesn’t even mention his antics at Strange Fire (with accompanying lies) or the full breadth of his plagiarism issues —- his supposed repentance doesn’t include an acknowledgement that he should step away from ministry, at least temporarily. Because of that it’s hard for me to actually agree that he’s repented when that ground-level fruit of repentance isn’t there.

            I don’t want to go around in circles forever, but I’m hoping that brings some clarity to where I’m (we’re) coming from.

          • bmh

            “BMH, this statement sounds like you believe that the only time it’s necessary to warn about another teacher is if he is a heretic, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Is that a correct characterization of your view?”

            Do you have a Scriptural example you can point to that demonstrates just such a practice in the early church – where warnings were given to steer clear of a sin struggling church/pastor until we can sort all of this sin stuff out? The closest thing to it that I can recall is Paul’s rebuke of Peter…but that was to his face…and of course Jesus’ rebuke of various churches in Rev. 2 and 3. but that was directly to them and not a wider public advisory to other churches to steer clear. You might suggest Diotrephes but that doesn’t seem to work well either. Beyond that we have the unvarnished warnings about false teachers. So in spirit of clarity, this is where I’m coming from when you guys straddle what seems like a very slippery fence.

            On a side note, I would think that MacArthurs and Truemans of the world would want to reach out to Mark in the wake of his public confession rather than taking to the Internet to warn about him. I see that Ray Ortlund did just that and his response was greatly appreciated as it sought unity while exercising a love that “believes all things.” Best to you guys.

          • Dennis HC

            You mean Ray Ortlund of Mark Driscoll’s Acts 29 Network? If he had stopped at rejoicing alongside his friend’s encouraging start, I would have agreed with you, but his reference to Driscoll haters and switching the moral onus was more reminiscent of a football player trying to spike the ball in another’s face during an end zone victory dance, than sober-minded commentary. In fact, I gather Ray Ortlund’s unbalanced article at least partially sparked responses here and at Reformation21.

            As for MacArthur reaching out to Driscoll, I still haven’t seen either a retraction or an apology from Driscoll for lying about confiscated books and slandering two honorable men who dealt with Driscoll with utmost courtesy. Perhaps he can add that to the list of things he could start trying to make right? And by the way, I don’t believe MacArthur has said anything at all about this topic,

          • Dennis HC

            (Cont’d) so your mentioning of him seems misplaced.

            As for Scripture, you have already been cited numerous examples in this article and comment thread. So I’m not sure what else to say to you on this.

  • Brad

    I just realized this was a response to Ray Ortlund’s blog over at the Gospel Coalition! Ortlund’s post is really wise, great, and encouraging!

    And I believe your post is really wise, great, and encouraging, Pastor Davis!

    I am so thankful for the body of Christ and how we can all bring our perspectives to the table. Combining what I learned from Ortlund’s post and Pastor Davis’ post will really help my ministry!

  • Alan

    Great article Eric. Thank you for this honest and biblical take.

  • Thank you for so clearly and graciously explaining the distinctions and particularly showing how love is involved.

  • elainebitt

    Thank you for the such great blog post Eric!

    To those who have so much to disagree with it:

    I murdered someone yesterday. I did. But I am here publicly to say I am very sorry for doing that, it wasn’t my intent. I apologize for my wrongdoing.

    Now, I am sure that all of you are going to forgive me. Of course I am not expecting any consequences to my sinning so greatly, after all I am so very sorry and it wasn’t intentional, no matter how many times I have done it.

    Thank you for trying to be so biblical about it too. You have showed me so much love and tolerance and understanding, after all we are all sinners, right?
    (who really cares about all those instances in the bible where although forgiveness is extended to the sinner, didn’t prevent from the consequences of sinning? Oh David, he would have so much to say about it, but who cares, right? After all, it’s all about being loving to your neighbour and skipping the greatest commandment # 1)

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