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.