[Note: To read SEBTS's response to Baptist Press, go here.]
Yesterday, Baptist Press came out with a hit piece on Mark Driscoll, preaching pastor of Mars Hills Church in Seattle, WA called “Driscoll’s Vulgarity Draws Media Attention.” Within minutes after posting, the reaction from those on Twitter ranged everything from bewilderment to disgust to frustration. Having been someone who has tracked and written about Mark Driscoll and the Acts 29 Network in relation to the Southern Baptist Convention, I have been asked by some to offer my take on this piece. So here are my thoughts in no particular order.
1. Baptist Press is like the Associated Baptist Press. They write what is news to them, not necessarily what is newsworthy. They have a constituency to cater to, and in the case of Baptist Press, it is largely the Executive Committee. Baptist Press must be seen for what it is and be given credibility only when it deserves it–and in this case, it deserves none. Furthermore, I am almost convinced that Mark Kelly did not write the article nor was David Tolliver informed that his statements were directly related to Mark Driscoll.
2. It is interesting to note who Baptist Press chose to provide the content of their critique against Driscoll. MacArthur’s critiques are fair enough, although it should be noted that his comments were made three years ago. But then Baptist Press borrows from Ingrid Schleuter, the noted heresy hunter and fundamentalist commentator of Slice of Laodicea. Ironically enough, Ingrid and her writing cohorts such as Ken Silva have included the SBC in their barrage of “missives” including the “emerging church” and “contemplative spirituality.” Does Will Hall (managing editor of BP) know they are lending credibility to the same fundy group that fiercely criticized their own?
3. Then there is David Tolliver, from the famous Missouri Baptist Convention who, under the direction of Roger Moran, de-funded all dually affiliated Acts 29/SBC churches because of their “cultural liberalism” (that is, their non-fundamentalist approach to culture). As I stated earlier, I have no reason to believe that Tolliver’s statements were targeted at Driscoll himself but were inserted into the article to imply that to the reader. Be that as it may, for Baptist Press to garner ammunition from the Missouri Baptist Convention against Mark Driscoll only further exacerbates the tension between Acts 29 churches and the SBC.
4. But what is disturbing the most is the timing of this piece. Just last week, Acts 29 Network held a bootcamp where Mark Driscoll shared the platform with Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Seminary. Driscoll and Akin again spoke at the 20/20 Collegiate Conference on the campus of SEBTS. Driscoll and Akin are continuing their shared influence as Driscoll spoke last year at the SEBTS sponsored Converge Conference addressing the emerging church. Are we to think that this article by Baptist Press just so happened to be published one week after this conference? Are we to believe that this is not an attempt to discredit and dampen the influence of Driscoll in SBC life? Are we not to see the implication this has on attempting to shame Danny Akin and SEBTS for their affiliation and cooperation with Driscoll?
5. There are two competing visions for the SBC going on right now: the Great Commission Resurgence under the direction of Danny Akin and David Dockery headquartered at SEBTS, and the Baptist Identity Movement under the direction of Paige Patterson and Malcolm Yarnell headquartered at Southwestern Seminary. Prior to the Annual Meeting in Indy last year, the Baptist Identity boys were blazing the Internet with series of blogposts talking about Baptist distinctives and in particular “ecumenical compromise.” From the Annual Meeting forward, however, the Great Commission Resurgence has won the day, leaving the Baptist Identity crowd in the wake full of a separatistic, landmarkist agenda. Having Driscoll (and Mahaney) who do not share the same ecclesiology and distinctives lead Patterson and his camp to consider the actions of Akin and SEBTS as Baptist compromisers. The BP article on Driscoll is an indication, in my mind, of an attempt to discredit the leadership of Akin and undermine the Great Commission Resurgence movement in the SBC. Fortunately, most Southern Baptists are not buying it.
6. Finally, remember all the talk about reaching out to the younger generation? Those under the age of 40 in denominational involvement are an endangered species, and articles like only work to ensure that they become extinct. Isn’t it interesting that the two biggest movements in the SBC–Calvinism and Acts 29 Network–are most often caricatured and criticized? It is almost as though the powers that be want the SBC to fail without a future generation to consider the SBC worthy of their labors. Why would they want to stick around and continue to put up with stuff like this anyway?
I am not a Driscoll fan boy. I have not met him, nor am I a part of the Acts 29 Network. I have great respect for him in many things he is doing, and there are things which I disagree with Driscoll about, some of which I have publicly taken issue with here on my blog. Nevertheless, the moniker attached to Driscoll as “the cussing pastor” is long worn out, and Driscoll has repented of that. Furthermore, those who perpetuate that perception of Driscoll are either willfully misrepresenting the truth or living at a level of ignorance that disqualifies them from writing about the subject. Driscoll’s cussing garnered media attention – five years ago.
In any the case, the fact that articles like this can be written about a brother in Christ that is so inaccurate and uncharitable in the Baptist Press does not raise the issue of Mark Driscoll but Christian virtue. I’m tired of being embarrassed as a Southern Baptist, and I would much rather partner with those who resembles Jesus than the Sanhedrin. As for Dr. Akin, he deserves our prayers and deepest respect. He, like others (e.g., John Piper, C.J. Mahaney, Tim Keller, etc.), has chosen to see what God is doing in the life of Mark Driscoll and encourage him. Undoubtedly, Akin has and will continue to (as a result of this BP article) receive grief and criticism as a result. As for Mark Driscoll, I would put him up to any Southern Baptist preacher today who preaches Christ and Him crucified (and how many SBC churches can you find Jesus preached on any given Sunday?). Baptist Press’ efforts would serve the cause of Southern Baptist life much more in the future should they highlight such preachers who are planting gospel-centered churches and reaching this younger generation whom we have all but written off. Southern Baptists can learn from Mark Driscoll, but that can only begin when we lay down the knives.