Ask Anything? Ask Something.

Tim Brister —  October 16, 2007 — 17 Comments

A quick update on my question for Mark Driscoll.

Since I posted my question last Friday, over 1200 votes have come in, currently holding the #1 spot on the site.  Thanks to all of you who have been voting for this question.  Apparently some of those commenting do not believe this is a legitimate or important question.  The question I asked is,

Do you believe that Scripture regulates not only your theology but also your methodology? In other words, do you believe in the regulative principle? If so, to what degree? If not, why not?

In the comments, I elaborated a little further, adding,

Perhaps it would be worthwhile to explain my question a little further. Being missional and Reformed, there is the tension between Scriptural fidelity and cultural accommodation. At times, I feel as though Scripture drives your methodology (e.g. complementarianism among others); at other times, I feel as though culture drives methodology. What I would like to know is how you deal with this tension and how you reconcile these two governing factors. For instance, do you work from Scriptural prescription (explicit) to general principles (implicit) to prudence and practicality?

For someone who is so influential in missiology and ecclesiology, I think it is important for Driscoll to address the issue of the Regulative Principle.  If the RP does not “regulate” our worship, government, contextualization, or other ecclesiological and methodological issues, then what does?  Since the Reformation, the RP has been an issue worthy of considerable discussion and critical thought; however, my concern is that our generation isn’t adequately applying the sufficiency of Scripture regarding matters of ecclesiology. 

Driscoll is an intelligent guy, and, as far as I can tell, a student of church history.  It is unfortunate that some would consider this question as merely academic or legalistic.  That is why I am asking you to take a few minutes each day and vote for my question


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  • gavin


    I’ve spent my 9 votes several times on your question. I think it is a good question, and one that I am personally interested in as the WL (and elder) at my church.

    And of course, i’d love to hear the issue addressed in Driscoll-esque fashion. I’m sure Mark would provide some nice sound bytes for future use.

  • I think your question is really good and I would certainly love to hear Driscoll’s sermon-length answer. However, I’m a little wary of Mars Hill’s endeavor. There’s something a little off-putting about allowing the cyberworld dictate your sermon material. My conception of the pastor/preaching elder’s duty is that he should pray, study the Word, and deliver messages that are relevant to his flock. I’m not sure that a guy in Southern Illinois (me) or in Louisville (you) or Djbouti (??) knows what texts or topics someone in the Mars Hill congregation needs to here.

    In fact, Driscoll himself has expressed concern about this very thing when discussing radio preachers in Part 5 of his “Preaching & Teaching Jesus from Scripture”. He wrote: However, when men preach for the radio they are preaching to the masses. Subsequently, they are not as likely to speak personally of themselves, their struggles, their families, and the specific issues in their church because they are preaching to America. Most pastors don’t preach to the nation or world, but just to their flock who need to know their pastor, see what the Holy Spirit has been doing with the Bible in their life, and how the Bible is integrated into their daily life and relationships instead of vague and general illustrations and principles that are true but not specific to their community.

    Sorry for the long comment. I really am interested in your thoughts on this. I’m withholding my votes until you reply :).

  • John

    I would like to see Driscoll’s response to my question, which is related to yours:

    What does allowing these questions to drive your sermons say about your view of the proclamation of God’s Word from the pulpit?

    I love the fact that your question is number one right now, as it is a very important question for him to wrestle with and answer.

  • Chase,

    You bring up a legitimate point. I think the message should be tailored to your audience but not determined by your audience. Be that as it may, the fact that Driscoll is doing this could be enlightening (to see what the biggest questions are) and instructive (to see how Driscoll handles them). I would prefer that he deal with them not so much as sermons to his congregation but as arguments/answers to his greater audience – the evangelical world. If I am not mistaken, Driscoll mentioned this larger audience in recognition of the fact that his sermons are being listened to far beyond Mars Hill and Seattle. Given his providential positioning and ever-increasing influence, I feel like it is profitable to have him articulate and explain his position on the Regulative Principle and in general what governs/guides his methodology.

    I would not consider chiming in on this endeavor were it not to be published in a book and receive a scope as wide and potentially as enduring in our generation. A lot of young ministers are and will continue to look to Driscoll not only for his missional emphasis but his ecclesiological convictions. We pretty much know where he stands missiologically, but I think his ecclesiology needs further treatment and analysis.

    So I guess that’s my response. For the record, other preachers have used their pulpits to address issues brought up in the larger evangelical world. How many sermons have been preached when ethical issues like homosexuality or abortion have arisen in their community? How many sermons have been driven by theological error as, for example, John Piper did in his sermon “This Man Went Home Justified” regarding N.T. Wright and NPP? I think that it is often the case that outside factors “dictate” what someone preaches. The only difference here is that it is more explicit. Am I wrong in that analysis? If not, still withholding your votes? 😉

  • Timmy,

    Your analysis is right. And I agree that Driscoll must consider his broader audience as he preaches and teaches, but I believe that his primary consideration should be his own immediate flock at Mars Hill. I’m sure that he can find a good balance for that and I’m don’t doubt that his sermons will be well-tailored accordingly.

    Here’s a thought… or question. If Driscoll wields such influence over young ministers, perhaps the most responsible thing would be to model for them that preaching to their own people is their principle duty?

    I think I’m now convinced that it’s fine (and probably responsible) to allow outside factors to influence (Who would say ‘dictate’? That’s so harsh:) ) sermon material. I still disagree with your preference for Driscoll to deal with them as sermons to the greater audience. This is for two main reasons. 1) As I stated before, I believe his responsibility is first and foremost to preach to his flock. 2) I don’t think the Mars Hill cultural context is so different from the rest of the evangelical world that his sermons would be lost on other hearers.

    The votes are released. Ten more a day for you, sir.

  • dslavich

    That’s a good three point outline there, fully alliterated and all. I’m taking full credit for that, by the way.

    I’ve been voting for your question. I think it will good to hear Driscoll discuss this issue, because, as you have said, he is too influential for his position to be fuzzy.


  • Timmy,

    I think this is a good question and I look forward to hearing Driscoll answer it. I am curious though, your tone seems to indicate that you feel that Driscoll sometimes allows the culture, instead of scripture, to drive his methodology. Could you give us some examples of specific things?

    btw, have you seen his Videology?

    I think that may be part of the answer to your question.

  • I’m extremely interested in this question as I hold to the regulative principle and try to be somewhat missional. Thank you Timmy for thinking asking the question, as it’s been on my mind for awhile.

  • Only 9 votes>? Kummeropolis has straight bank on Driscoll’s website. I hope you don’t get banned.

  • Chase,

    Thanks for releasing your votes, and I agree with your sentiments. 🙂


    Let’s just say that it’s all your fault. Or, it could be the Southern Baptist default way of communication (that being the alliteration of course). But then again, I did leave out the poem. 😉


    You’re welcome.


    If it does, at least I know who to come after!

  • Don,

    First, I tried to watch that video, and for some reason my internet connection is really slow, so I am going to have to check that later.

    Second, from what Driscoll has insinuated, I am led to beleive that at times culture indeed determines their methodology. Now granted, whatever we do is going to be culturally informed. I mean, if we are going to have pipe organs and hymnbooks, we are saying that 18th century(?) culture is preferred. If we go with 21st century culture, it will be more praise choruses and the praise band. What makes 18th century culture more biblically normative than 21st century culture? Are there aspects of worship in the Bible (such as head coverings) that are culturally distinctive of 1st century Christianity that is not necessarily prescriptive or regulative in worship today?

    There are some who prefer doing church the “traditional” way – meaning that of their parents or grandparents (usually early 20th century revivalism style). Others, say in Reformed Baptist circles, tend to lean to 17th century Puritanism. Still others are saying that much of this discussion is either adiaphoric or Scripture is silent on these matters, which then, is why I ask if you go from prescription which is explicit to general principle which is more implicit.

    Third, practically speaking, I would be interested to know further how the regulative principle affects not only worship but church government and even missional practices, especially contextualization. This is important because in the worship and missional nature of the church, there is an inherent effort to be conversant, ergo relevant, to the culture. In such efforts to be relevant, how, where, and when do we regulate our methodology? I have seen and heard churches, for instance, who meet in bars, text messaging their thoughts and questions which appear on multiple T.V. screens and are read by their pastor as he preaches for a more “interactive” worship experience. How does the regulative principle address this? How far is too far? Where do we get the standard, and how do we draw the line and say this is unbibilical methodology? Other hot-button issue is multi-site churches. Should there be a virtual preacher on Sunday mornings? Should a congregation be divided in multiple campuses and still be called one church? That’s just a few for starters. I need to think through this some more. 🙂

  • Timmy, you should really say “regulative principles” as this has not been consistent in church history. Some say you only sing the psalms, others permitted the new hymns. The hardcore would reject the celebration of Easter and Christmas in the churches (the English Puritans did cancel Christmas you know, even banned plum pudding) as their celebration is not included in Scripture.

    I think this can get a bit ridiculous and the knitpicks have a field day representing their particular view of the regulative principle. Some would say that the means of worship do not matter (ie hymnbooks or projected lyrics) while other would see these as out. Should communion be from “one loaf” or only unleavened bread? I hope we do not miss the forest from the trees.

    I think you already know the answer to your question…Mark does not hold to the regulative principle – this is no mystery to anyone. I think the real question you have is the final one: “Why not?”

  • Reid,

    I agree. The regulative principle can be taken to an extreme; however, the aim in my questioning is more broad and intended to address the issue of how normative (and prescriptive) Scripture is in our methodology as it pertains to various ecclesiological matters. When we say that we believe in the sufficiency of Scripture, are we intending to say that it is sufficient for determining our methodologies as well as our theologies? Do you see where I am getting at?

  • That leads me to a question, probably good fodder for blogging for all of us:

    Should the Regulative Principle be scrapped, or should we develop a framework around which the RP should be used?

    This in response to the fact that some go way, way overboard with the RP and some simply ignore it.

  • kampugh


    This is a great question, one that I have been trying to struggle through for awhile. I think Driscoll would offer some interesting insight on the subject. Brady just put a link up to vote on our blog, so hopefully we can keep you on top.

  • For those interested, Driscoll has chimed in. He explains why he chose to do this as well as shares his thoughts on the leading questions asked. Here’s the link:

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