Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Critique of Driscoll Sermon: Part I


Recently, a sister-in-the-Lord asked for comments on a sermon preached by Mark Driscoll directly before he baptized his son (and some others) in the River Jordan. Before I weigh in on the sermon I would like to make a couple of prefatory comments.

Firstly, I realize that to disagree with Pastor Driscoll publically is roughly the equivalent of painting a bull’s-eye on my chest and giving the raspberry to an army of English longbow-men. But, as they say, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

Secondly, under the heading of “giving honor where honor is due,” I am greatly indebted to Pastor Driscoll for the many helpful insights that I have gleaned from his books and online sermons. Personally and pastorally Mark has been a huge blessing to “me and mine”, and I praise God for him and for Mars Hill Church.

And now, with that said, on to the comments!

I have to admit that I was a bit envious when I figured out that Pastor Mark was preaching a sermon on baptism, while standing on the shore of (or in) the River Jordan about to baptize his son, mother and father and others who were assembled for that purpose. I mean really. How cool is that? You could even hear some Palestinian geese heckling Mark as he preached (probably Muslim or Jewish birds!)

The bulk of the sermon was very good, especially his comments on repentance and confession. Driscoll’s gift for taking theological concepts and making them understandable and practicable for Joe Average Christian was gloriously evident as he preached on the necessity and practice of true reconciliation. Amen, and amen brother Mark!

My disagreements would fall under two headings: Religion and the proper recipients of baptism.

Pastor Mark regularly disparages “religion” without qualification. If Driscoll would have included the modifier “false” before every usage of “religion” then I could’ve happily agreed with just about everything that he preached. The antithesis in the Bible is between true religion and false religion, not no-religion and religion. For example, we are exhorted to the practice of “pure” religion in James 1:27. James doesn’t insist that the faithful abandon religion. Rather, he calls the faithful to practice religion in humble submission to God’s Word. The Oxford Dictionary defines religion as, “a particular system of faith and worship.” Therefore, religion is inescapable. Mars Hill Church is religious and so is its pastor. The only question is: “What system of faith and practice?” For the record, I agree with Driscoll that we ought to refute, revile and reject all forms of religion that depend, even to the slightest degree, upon man’s supposed goodness, effort and/or merit. But I would also contend that we should embrace the religion (the “particular system of faith and worship”) that insists that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

To illustrate: If someone painted a mustache on the Mona Lisa, it wouldn’t make sense to revile the painting itself. But it would make sense to lovingly and carefully remove whatever paint the vandals had put there, in order to restore, preserve and enjoy the original beauty of DaVinci’s masterpiece.

All this may seem rather petty and picayunish, but God has very strict prohibitions against calling evil that which He has declared to be good (see Isaiah 5:20).

To be continued…

1 comment:

Brittany said...

Pastor Helsel,
Thank you so much for taking the time to help Driscoll listeners, such as I, distill his words on religion and baptism! (I am anxious for Part 2!)

While I respect Mark Driscoll and have been convicted, encouraged, and blessed by his sermons, I am wanting to make sure I do not listen blindly and without thinking. While gifted with much wisdom and insight, I think that Driscoll would admit himself that he is a young preacher and his understanding of what is truth is still maturing.
I am trying to practice discernment as I listen to all translations of what Scripture says, and the two topics of question you raised were the two that caught my attention as well.
I appreciate the clarity of your insight on the topic of religion.I believe that redeeming religion rather than rejecting it is the more God honoring approach.

I hope to have further conversations and discussions regarding both issues in light of God's Word, and (as mentioned above), I look forward to reading more about the topic of infant baptism!!
THANK YOU again!

Peace of the Lord be with you!
~Brit