Mark Driscoll’s Lecture on the Emerging Church and Rob Bell


I just listened to Mark Driscoll’s recent yet already much-blogged-on lecture on Christianity and the Emerging Church.  Just a few thoughts.

First, Mark is funny.  I like Mark.

Second, I have a feeling Mark used every ounce of patience within him to not yell and jump up and down like he sometimes does, and the reason might be because, as he said in the beginning of his lecture, he is friends with two of the guys he critiqued and finds them to be very generous.  He said this after a long and difficult pause:

It’s really hard for me.  I don’t want to be the man who is known by what he is against.  I don’t want to be the man who is known by what he is angry about.  And I don’t want to be the man who is being unnecessarily unpleasant to men who have been pleasant to me.

Third, I don’t know if Mark’s critique of Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt is accurate.  I will leave that to people who are more familiar with these folks.  I will say that Mark is a very intelligent man and has known these two guys and their work for a number of years, so it would be hard to imagine him misunderstanding them.  Mark says this about Doug Pagitt:

(He’s) a friend of mine.  Saw him in Seattle recently; we had dinner together.  He’s a very nice guy.  He’s great to argue and debate with.  He’s as cranky as I am, and so we have a great time.  No one in our presence does, but we have a great time.

Fourth, Mark criticizes Rob Bell, whom he admits he has never met.  Most of Mark’s critique of Rob consists of contending for the belief that the virgin birth is a vital part of Christianity, which Rob in his book Velvet Elvis wonders is a necessary component of being a Christian.  Another chunk of Mark’s critique of Rob focuses on a book called A Brief History of Everything that Rob, in Velvet Elvis, recommends people read.  The author, Ken Wilber, is not a Christian, which means he has ideas that don’t fit in with Christianity, and these ideas are the ones that Mark criticizes.  The remaining part of Mark’s critique of Rob is that Bell focuses on Rabbinical interpretations of the Bible, and since this interpretation hinges on not believing in Jesus, it is therefore bad.

In my opinion, if Mark and Rob would sit down and have a long chat I think that Mark would have a different understanding of what Bell is all about.  Mark likes to talk about how Christianity is all about Jesus, the Bible is all about Jesus, and it’s a good thing to be all about Jesus.  I know of several thousand people who can say without reservation that few people are all about Jesus like Rob is.  I think it’s important to realize that some people don’t communicate in quite the same way as others, and oddly enough, Mark encourages the audience to be subversive, a technique which Rob has mastered, which has gotten him in trouble with Christian leaders.  I am going to agree with many of the bloggers out there who are saying that Driscoll was unfair in his critique of Bell.

Rob Bell has been criticized all over the blog world, and most of the critiques are laughable, so this isn’t a new thing.  But Mark’s critique concerns me a little, and here’s why: people who have not heard Rob teach or who who have not seen Rob articulate a vision of Christianity that is centered around Jesus will get an incorrect view of the man based on this lecture by Mark Driscoll, and that would be a shame. (Rob Bell: “Christ is enough.”)

All in all, there are few people in the world I respect more than Mark Driscoll.  He’s a brilliant, down-to-earth, funny guy who loves Jesus and is influencing the world.  I’m thankful for him and what he’s doing in Seattle and throughout the world, and I can’t wait to hang out with him in the renewed earth.

Other posts on the lecture: Pomomusings /



  1. The profound point mark made that stood out to me was the idea Bell puts forward in Velvit Elvis about the “tramp.” He hit the home run when he said that the the trampoline needs a frame. This one of Rob’s major points and reasons for writing the whole book. I think the major difference is that Mark says there is some things that are foundational to Christian faith and can not be “recreated” or bounced on as Bell says. I think his description of two handed theology completely disagrees with what Bell is trying to propose.

  2. I think Rob is aware that the trampoline has a frame. This appears to be a case of one man (Driscoll) taking one person’s (Bell’s) illustration and extending it further than the latter intended it to be. Which he is, of course, free to do; it’s just that by doing so the former is missing the point of the illustration.

  3. I liked the point that Bell made in his book to test the things he said in it. It teaches one to think critically (at least it did so for me). I like both Bell and Driscoll, so it kind of stinks that there are disagreements … but so it will be.
    By the way, I stumbled across your blog, and like it quite a lot.
    I will be adding you to my blogroll. 🙂

  4. Hi Aly. Welcome. I’m glad you stumbled. Upon my blog.

    I also like Bell and Driscoll, so I agree – it’s unfortunate when there are disagreements. Although I just heard yesterday that a Christian bumper sticker says, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” A Jew’s car, on the other hand, would have this bumper sticker: “God said it. I believe it. Let’s discuss it.” The contrast is interesting…

  5. thanks for a refreshingly balanced post. It would be great to get these guys together for a more straightforward discussion. Granted, most of mark’s critique was peripheral; however, from the Bell i have listened to, he does emphasize Rabbinical commentary to a fault, misinterpreting various passages.

  6. “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

    Matthew 7:15-23

    Rob Bell should be judged by his fruit and the man produces good fruit. Both past and present hold dramatic examples of men who held firmly to the virgin birth and the Trinity but their fruit was bad. I believe truth is very important to Rob Bell or he wouldn’t be teaching the things he teaches today. I think Rob Bell affirms a virgin birth and the Trinity. But I sincerely doubt Rob Bell could have a man like Michael Servetus burned alive at the stake because he did not affirm the Trinity or infant baptism. I am quite certain that Rob Bell and many, many others would agree with God who declared Abraham righteous despite the fact he most certainly did not have the ’springs’ or ‘table legs’ of the virgin birth or the Trinity.

    Jesus and his disciples uprooted and shook the very faith foundations of an ENTIRE nation that at one time was declared the people of God, because their faith had become in the foundations their God had given them instead of the God who had given them the foundations. And when we begin to go down the road they did, we become capable of the most unnecessary of name calling, ill advised perceptions and yes, we even become capable of killing the Son of God. Matthew 25:31-46.

    Enjoy your Blog…

  7. Michael, I thought this was a piercing statement: “Their faith had become in the foundations their God had given them instead of the God who had given them the foundations.” Like Uncle Rico says, “Right on…Right on.”

  8. Thirty,

    Great blog…one of the better ones I have seen. I shall visit again.

    Grace to be to you…

  9. But… the foundations are important as well! Yes our faith should be in God and not foundations like the Pharisees did, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the foundations God has given us are of importance. If you don’t have foundations (ie. scripture!) then what DO you have? A foundation is not a building in itself, but it is an absolutely essential part of one.

  10. If I may interject, a bit late, and offer a response to the response, a trampoline is not a trampoline without a frame, and so to say something is like a trampoline is to inherently say that there is a frame. If we’re going to argue by analogy this would seem to be one of the sillier arguments.

  11. I think we miss the point when we argue from a standpoint of whether foundations are important or not and we really get off track when we argue ‘if we don’t have foundations then what do we have’. Tozer was right…we have missed the point. Imperfect, ignoble thoughts about God have turned us into doctrine loving, people hating creatures. And that is idolatry. We have focused on OUR salvation (loosely translated doctrine) when the point was never OUR salvation, but the glorification of God the Father (Phillipians 2). WOULD YOU WORSHIP AND GLORIFY GOD, IF YOU WEREN’T GOING TO BE SAVED? I don’t believe Abraham was found righteous because he had some ideas about God right and that those right ideas would get him to heaven. I believe he worshiped God because he was in awe, fear and love with a Holy God. And he was found righteous in God’s eyes.

  12. Ok Michael, well to tell you the truth I have no idea where you were going with that. In fact if anything you proved my point. When I say foundation I mean what we base our faith upon. And our faith should be based upon scripture 100%, as scripture is the very word of God.
    So, let’s take a look at Rob Bell’s “fruit” and what kind of teaching he’s doing. In fact, how about you just go here:
    I’m very thankfull for the fella who went through the trouble writing that, and many similar pages on that site. When I first realized the poisons Rob Bell is leaching into the minds of chrisitans, I was worried I’d have to do all that work myself.

  13. In deed trampolines need frames. However, human language and metaphors always breakdown when trying to talk about God, because he is just that, God.

    I think it would be better to think of the frame as God, and the springs (doctrines) as our way of connecting to the Truth(frame) ie God.

    In simple phyics, ‘every action has a equal and opposite reaction’. So in keep with the trampoline analogy, as the springs as stretch, the frame must exert the equal amount of force in the opposite direction to the pull from the springs. This is can be easily understood as the God’s part in the analogy.

    What i saying is the frame does not need to be unmoveable doctrines. Rob would not be suggesting that you can remove all the springs and still have a faith. Every trampoline needs a certain amount of springs, otherwise it would cease to provide the experience a trampoline is made for. But the number of those springs may vary.

    Anyway sorry everyone for a long post.

  14. I don’t think there will be a theology exam when we come before Jesus at the judgement. But Jesus did warn us saying ‘go away I never knew you’.

  15. Tim Reed wrote:
    >If I may interject, a bit late, and offer a response
    >to the response, a trampoline is not a trampoline
    >without a frame, and so to say something is like a
    >trampoline is to inherently say that there is a frame.

    After all this discussion about trampolines, springs and frames don’t overlook Rob’s root message which is all about the joy of jumping.

  16. Thanks for the blog. I appreciated your kind response to Mark. I have been offended by some of his comments with regard to God “not being a “chick” and was being to see him as a knee jerk reactionary– or maybe a guy with just a little more than the recommended dose of testosterone. i too hope that these guys will dialogue. I hope that all of us will be open to the fact that our ability to understand has limitations. When we get this, we’ll be less apt to call people heretics. Rob’s comments about the virgin birth and Brian’s about hell were both disturbing to me. But…I think it’s good for us to be disturbed now and then, don’t you? It makes us wonder/ponder/reflect. That’s a good thing, right?

  17. Does Rob Bell teach the belief of absolute truth? In the numa video “Dust”, he explains that God believes in us using the story of Jesus walking on the water (Matt 14:22-31)n as an example. He says that when Peter started to sink, it was because Peter lost faith in himself, not in Christ. This implies that we don’t need God completely. I’ve got a problem with that. Seems that according to Bell, we might need God, but sometimes we are okay without His help.

    1. Dave, I think the point of Dust is we loose faith in ourselves, even when God shows tremendous faith in us. It is an illustration of how Jesus has left his life’s work in the hands of the common, everyday people. We have been called to be disciples of Jesus, which means he believes we can become like him (as was the custom of the Jewish rabbis).

      I never got the implication that this faith was without God, but instead was because He calls us.

      1. Ack. “Lose” not “loose.” I hate it when those words get interchanged.

    1. Todd, I love how you gave us the bottom line. Thanks for that. It clears up a lot for me.

      All kidding aside, I find that truth is not a black/white issue. The religious leaders of Jesus’ time continually tried to ask him black/white questions in order to trip him up or push him into a corner to support their beliefs. Jesus was the one who responded with broad statements that were not “yes or no” answers.

      My perspective is that it isn’t a black and white vs. grey issue. There’s a whole spectrum of color out there that we are trying to communicate with limited language from our limited minds to other limited people.

      So, Todd, your bottom line can be your bottom line. Just know that there are others willing to dig deeper.

  18. Thanks for the great review. Will definitely keep an eye on other posts, really enjoyed this. As for the portion on Rob Bell though, continue to research him, bro. Things might sound sweet on the tongue, and we can “center” some talks around Jesus- but be concerned when a pastor doesn’t center ALL talks around the inerrant Word of God. Velvet Elvis and Love Wins both teach a gospel that Jesus didn’t.

  19. Renee,

    I have trouble with the concept of an ‘inerrant’ word of God – The perfection of the Bible is spoilt every time imperfect humans start interpreting it. The fact that humans interpret the bible in so many different ways is proof that although God is ‘inerrant’ – our pitiful attempts to make sense of the bible will always fall short. Let’s be a bit honest about that and acknowledge that there is not a single right interpretation of the Bible. Unless you’re going to claim that your interpretation is the right one?


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