Mark Driscoll’s Apology, and Why No Apology Is Ever Good Enough

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Pastor Mark Driscoll recently apologized for all the craziness surrounding his book marketing scandal, and just as with Donald Miller’s recent confession, the internet summarily exploded.

As usual, fellow Christians showed an excellent capacity for eating their own and shooting their wounded, and internet comments from Christians pretty much looked like YouTube comments with less cussing and more (abused) Bible verses.  I mean who needs context anyway.

I sort of sighed at the whole thing.  I’m pretty much jaded to internet hate from both Christians and everyone else, and the only thing that surprises me these days is grace.

Here are some observations.



1) I think most of us love to wait for someone to fail. Especially a well known pastor like Driscoll.  There’s a certain surge of bowel-tickling righteousness that climbs our collective spine when a holy figure falls on his face, or even when a celebrity is caught smoking crack on video (until she dies, and then we mourn really loud).  We get to implicitly say, “Look at him, I’m way better than that” or “If I were him, I would do this / not do this.”  There’s a self-righteous Pharisee in all of us, and we use others’ failures to add points to our moral GPA.


2) Everyone presumes everything.  When sensational events occur, suddenly everyone is a psychologist and a philosopher and an expert on anthropological development.  Everyone knows exactly why Pastor Mark apologized, because it’s another marketing scheme.  He’s not really sorry.  His wife hates him.  His church can’t fire him.  And so on.  I will also presume that all these people think they’re God and they can see inside a human brain.


3) Apologies aren’t good enough anymore; we want crucifixions.  I have no idea if Pastor Mark meant his apology.  That’s really between him and God, and perhaps up to his future actions.  But I think  we’re too quick to assume “He’s not really sorry.”  I think what Pastor Mark did what was pretty icky, but he did apologize, very graciously, with humility and self-effacing awareness.  Yet no one seems gracious enough to give this a chance — the wording isn’t good enough, he didn’t address this or that, he “already apologized in 2007” — and it only proves the old adage that you can’t make everyone happy.  It seems Christians are even less happy, because they can weaponize their Bibles into pitchforks.


4) Pastor Mark is a human being who happens to have influence.  And I don’t envy that, at all.  I can’t imagine the enormous pressure and scrutiny he’s under, every second, every day.  That’s not to throw him any pity, but I don’t think he ever imagined having this sort of social weight nor to have the media hang on his every word.  And unlike twerking celebrities with DUIs and squirmy Twitters and unrepentant childish behavior, Pastor Mark asked for forgiveness.  In return, he got a slap in the face, mostly from fellow Christians.  And this has to hurt pretty bad.


I met Pastor Mark once at a conference, back in 2011.  I was going through a really dark depression at the time.  I saw that Pastor Mark was absolutely exhausted, and he seemed to be really apologetic about himself the whole time.  He must’ve said sorry a dozen times during his sermon for his past behaviors.  And I really believe he meant it.  I believe he loves his wife and kids and he loves Jesus.  His sermon really encouraged me.  Since that time, I’ve sort of liked Pastor Mark, quite a lot.  I don’t agree with all he says — when do we ever? — but I’ve come to see him as a brother in Christ, and he needs grace like we all do.

I think our opinions of people change when we actually meet them, when we can see them up close and hear the shaking in their voice and see the uncertainty in their eyes.  I think our opinions change when we hear peoples’ dreams and see their hopes for their kids and watch them do something they love.  I think every person has a story that counts and their feelings matter and they really want you to believe they’re sorry when they say they’re sorry, and they would like for you to give them a chance to hear them out instead of waiting for them to blow it up.  I think we all fail in some pretty miserable ways and the big difference is that most people won’t ever hear about it, and we only need to say sorry to a few people, and we won’t get beat up by all these strangers who claim they love Jesus.  I think if we all extended a little bit of what Jesus extended to us, then maybe our online communities could look different than any other place in the world, and we could cheer for our pastors to be better pastors, but more importantly to be better husbands and better leaders and better human beings.  I would do that for you, and I hope you would do that for me too.

I think if we really saw someone as God’s creation, we could probably surprise them with grace instead.

— J

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22 thoughts on “Mark Driscoll’s Apology, and Why No Apology Is Ever Good Enough

  1. Meh, I read his apology and my first thought was, “He’s apologizing for the wrong things!” LOL I don’t want Mark Driscoll to fail or get crucified or anything like that. And I know we are all gonna “get it right” one day, so I don’t really need for him to apologize.

    What I said to my husband upon reading Mark’s apology (and then posted it on FB under my friend’s post of the apology) was, “I’m looking forward to the day when Mark really begins to understand grace and leaves all the legalism behind.” That’s what we ALL need, isn’t it? At least, last time I checked.

    (Remember that the folks who vilify Mark are legalists too – actually, we all have a bit – or a LOT – of legalism in us. The battle for Grace is CONSTANT.)

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    1. You’re right about the other folks being legalists too, we all are for sure. I just really think Pastor Mark has sort of become the punching bag within the Christian subculture, by both conservative watchdogs and liberal evangelicals. At this point it’s like no matter what he does, everyone’s waiting for him to faceplant. Certainly some of that was brought upon himself, but I wish the Christian community wouldn’t act with so much revulsion at a flawed brother in Christ — I thought we were all better than that.

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      1. You wrote:
        “but I wish the Christian community wouldn’t act with so much revulsion at a flawed brother in Christ — I thought we were all better than that.”

        That’s because you have not yet become a cynic (like me). 😉

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    2. Could you explain your definition of legalism. There is a difference between legalism and scrupulosity. Those who call scrupulosity legalism are looking for a means to compromise clear Christian principles with their reason, sentiments, or desired conception of realities.

      Legalism is not one of the first things that come to mind with Mark Driscoll.

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      1. Hi, Johnny. thanks for the comment/question! For me, legalism is anything we think we have to DO in order to have/walk in/earn God’s favor, or maybe the converse is a better way to say it: believing there is anything I can DO to LOSE God’s favor/love, etc. Either Jesus did it all or He didn’t. Over the years as I’ve listened to Mark, it sounds to me like he’s saying differently. But maybe that’s just me. 🙂

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        1. There are two points here. I would add to your definition, adding a doctrinal/ethical principle that cannot be reasonably deduced from Scriptures and insisting on others to follow it. This legalism may also may apply to oneself. However, we might add something (i.e. restriction) out of doubt or out of preference, not because we believe it to be the gospel truth. (The SBC insistence on alcoholic abstinence for its members is an obvious and prime example of egregious legalism.)

          However, I think where I would worry about your understanding is this. Although the rational basis for justification is Christ alone, and we must practicably trust this, (act on the basis of its premises). If we assert/practice our ideas over the Scriptures on lesser matters, we enter a spiral, by which we psychologically/spiritually decline, and over a period of time, until we actually lose our faith in the Gospel. I believe in “once-saved, always-saved”. But if we lose our faith, and many have (Charles Templeton), it is because our faith was actually not in the Christ of Scriptures and His often counter-intuitive counsel/promises/admonitions. Rather, we had always allowed our subjective faculties to be the final arbiter of our lives; thereby practicing an idolatry of the self and not trusting Christ. I have felt this downward pull down when I fail to uphold lesser truths, I knew to be true.

          Driscoll insists on certain principles/doctrines. I might disagree with him on many. However, if I choose to disagree, not because my honest understanding of Scriptures leads to me to think otherwise; but rather because my reason/sentiments/preferences lead me to think otherwise, the latter is dangerous.

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          1. Johnny, I realized this morning that my lengthy response to your response may not have been replied to your comment directly, so wasn’t sure if you received notification of it. Anyway, I responded. Thanks for the discussion! God bless!!
            C

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  2. I think you nailed it, especially the second to last paragraph. It’s so easy to appear witty, righteous, or profound hiding behind a key board. Almost gaurantee an overwhelming majority of Watch dog tough guys slamming Driscoll (or insert any other leader they can’t stand) wouldn’t repeat those same sentiments personally over a cup of coffee. It costs almost nothing to assault public personas in virtual anonymity. But to listen, understand, and sympathize with someone at the soul eye level is uncomfortable, and costly.

    I’m as bad as anyone at drive by snarkiness and knee jerk witticisms, that’s one reason I put most of my social media into retirement for now. Thanks for the word bro!

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    1. Well said, Bryan. My eyes are hungry to see grace. I’ve noticed I’ve been part of the problem and so I’ve stepped back from social media (i.e. Facebook) for a bit. Not cut off completely, just a step back. As hard as I am on myself, I need grace. And we can’t give what we don’t have, right? And so I want my palms open to receive from Heaven.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I think you’ve also nailed it Bryan. It is so easy to carpet bomb someone from 35,000 feet, knowing that you are dropping 500#ers on their village while remaining totally or mostly anonymous yourself. Look at snarky comments and notice how many people refuse to put their real name or image behind their words.

      I learned a long time ago that most things sent anonymously in this scenario are not worth the time or effort to read, much less respond to. Like a hand addressed envelope with no return address, and a letter unsigned, is the validity of this kind of crap-which is to say, less than zero. When I get hand addressed envelopes with no return, or unsigned letters, they go under the match; unread and without consideration.

      In this instance, I see “Anonymous” as translated from Latin for “coward”-and it saddens me deeply. No one who engages in such ought to be allowed to invoke the name of Christ as their Lord, because the evidence states otherwise.

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    3. Agreed, Bryan. I’m just really deflated by seeing that both the Christian AND mainstream online communities look exactly the same: tons of vitriol and arrogant presumptions and personal attacks. No set-apart-ness. Sure, there should be some open-handed rebuke here. But on the whole, I would think the Christian online community would rush in with generosity and grace to “cover a multitude of sins.” Instead they kick the guy when he’s down with a reckless sickening sort of glee.

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  3. Excellent post. Why do we forget that we are called to extend grace? We have been given and continue to receive daily grace and mercy. We cannot allow the words of Jesus to fall on deaf ears. Thank you for your gracious reminder.

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    1. Yes. I do think the proper authorities in his church ought to reprimand him, and that goes for any other pastor who embezzles, has an affair, assaults someone, or has a long history of manipulation (none of which Pastor Mark is being accused of). But I also think grace is the one difference that sets apart the Christian community. In Pastor Mark’s case, his apology ought to make us more gracious, not less.

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  4. Good post. Good comments. It seems to me your point #2 – presumption, says it all. Who is anyone to presume they read minds, know motives, are acquainted with the whole story and must be brutal, just in case God isn’t, because they don’t know the mind of God and certainly don’t have a divine heart? Grace only comes with love, and in that there is
    Peace.

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    1. What’s interesting is that even if Pastor Mark were totally honest about his motives — “Yes I totally cheated the NY Times list” — it would still attract attacks, and perhaps even more so. Which means that presumptions are never satisfied even when answered with full confessions, and it just shows how futile everyone’s negativity really is.

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      1. It also shows (again – I’m a broken record) that we are all legalists – we hold Mark to standards as well instead of exercising Grace. *sigh* I look forward to the day we are FREE and live like it!!

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  5. Johnny,

    First off, I definitely agree with your additional comments on legalism (first paragaraph, second comment). The reason I did not mention that is because I’ve not experienced Mark doing that per se.

    Your second paragraph I frankly found to be a lot of Christian mumbo-jumbo that I’ve heard for years now to try to justify putting burdens on people they cannot keep. Let me try to explain it this way:

    I believe salvation originated with Jesus and ends with Jesus. Period. I don’t think we have anything to do with it, other than the opportunity to participate in it through works empowered by the Holy Spirit. When Mark speaks, what I hear is a demand that people either behave or believe in a certain way in order for God to accept them (all the while telling people to accept Jesus, which is simply not in the Bible). I don’t believe this was Paul’s or the other Disciple’s message of reconciliation. If all is through Christ, and the Spirit leads me to Him in the first place, then attacking me for not living up to even Biblical standards (whether in belief or practice) is detrimental to everyone. Romans 5, 11, and Ephesians 1 I think talk more about the mystery of the Gospel which the legal-bound religious organization we call church has yet to discover. As long as we use fear to manipulate people into either believing or behaving a certain way, we have utterly left behind the Gospel of Grace.

    Either it’s ALL going to be about His grace or it’s not. You simply cannot have it both ways. Grace is the power to live a godly life, not the welcome mat we leave behind once saved. This is where Mark Driscoll and I part ways.

    Thanks for the discussion, although I realize that the comment section of J.S.’s post is a poor place to have it. You might try skipping over to my Apocatastasis post for more clarification (or confusion, depending ;)). God bless you on your journey deeper into Him. And my apologies to J.S. for this hijack.

    http://judahfirst.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/apocatastasis/

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    1. May I also add to this discussion that 99% of preaching in some way dives into legalism. It’s impossible to avoid, not because anyone is deliberately kicking that horse, but because the human heart is always off-balance and self-justifying.

      Clear presentations of the Gospel will contain some kind of behaviorally constrictive imperatives, because either 1) our delivery is imperfect, and 2) listeners will often hear the practical over the Gospel, so they hear what they want to. Both teacher and listener are marred. Plus, with how most preaching is today, you’ll run into an exposition of three or five or ten verses that can’t possibly cover all the grounding for a grace-driven faith. Our only hope is that we can underline the practical with the finished work of Jesus — sometimes we’ll get it right, and other times not. And God has grace even for our mishandling of grace.

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  6. P.S. I just want to add that the issue for me is whether or not the preaching divides into an us or them mentality. Whenever we use the Gospel to vilify another person, group, action, or belief, we have missed the boat of Grace altogether. I think this is where I really take issue with Mark. And let me add that I have not listened to any of his recent teaching, so perhaps he has changed somewhat. I can only go by what I have heard in the past.

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  7. J.S., Johnny chose to continue our discussion over on one of my blog posts. Due to some things that were said, I would appreciate it if you would kindly delete all of my former comments on this thread. I don’t really want anyone else following the links over to my site from here. I’m sorry that I posted and apologize again for hijacking this comment section. I really just need to learn to keep it shut. lol

    God bless you Big!

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    1. J.S. Before you do something as silly as that, adjudge for yourself whether Judah First is missing the point I’m making and for reasons beyond me, assumes a judgmentalism that just doesn’t exist in my heart or in my words. There may be a metaphor that was not initially properly defined, to which I apologize.But, I speak of the spiritual/psychological dynamics that can lead to apostasy on the one hand, if allowed to go to its logical course, and the lack of psychological freedom on the other hand if one doesn’t allow a full understanding of the dynamics and ramifications of the Atonement to soak the soul and still the voices/thoughts of psychological guilt.

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