John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur

Driscoll, Piper and Chandler at Text & Context 2008

At the 2009 Basics Conference, John Piper was given the opportunity to respond to John MacArthur’s recent criticism of Mark Driscoll. I am grateful for godly men like Piper who are willing to speak about this issue with truth, wisdom and grace.

I originally had featured Piper’s audio, but it’s no longer available. Fortunately, Peter, one of our readers, was kind enough to transcribe it a few months back on behalf of a hearing impaired reader. That transcript follows:

Question: Thank you, Pastor John. Wanted to ask you, this is a pretty big subject in the church today, the idea of Pastors and lay leaders even, using perhaps more course language from the pulpit, kind of bringing things down a level and not being holy in their speech, and it seems to be a bit of a problem, and somebody may call us nitpickers for wanting the speech coming from the pulpit to actually be glorifying in every way, and I just wanted to get your opinions on that. There’s a lot of stuff on the Internet, bantering back and forth, back and forth and I just wanted to get your opinion on it, thank you.

John Piper: Oh I’m right in the thick of it. And the two people of course are John MacArthur and Mark Driscoll, right? I assume that’s where you’re going. And everybody knows that I’ve been friendly with Mark Driscoll, because he’s been at two of our conferences and I’ll be with him in two weeks. And I love John MacArthur with all my heart and I’m going to be with him – if he’ll still have me – in June. So, I love him, love him, what a grand, great, 40 years. So, amen!

So, he spent 4 blog posts criticising Mark Driscoll two weeks ago, and Mark has stuck him foot in his mouth quite a few times. I would encourage nobody to become course, filthy, ugly, trashy. I’ve had to repent… I could tell you the worse word I’ve ever used in a sermon but if I did I would get in trouble to say it. It isn’t a four-letter word, it’s … I forget how many letters it is… it’s like one of those.

So, I’ve been there, and I know how easy it is to create effect. And with a certain young crowd, it’s hip, it’s cool, it’s the way you feel. You know, you dress a certain way, and you watch certain movies, and you talk a certain way and then you’re hip, and thus attract a certain crowd. So I don’t think your mouth needs to be dirty in order to relate to 20-somethings in Seattle. And I think Mark knows that, I think Mark knows that. I assume he’ll hear this, probably, what I’m saying right now. I count him as a good friend. I spent an hour with him two weeks ago, at the Gospel Coalition, talking about these things.

Now he preached on Song of Solomon two years later, that was the 2007, at least a year later. I think what he did with his Church was way more mellow, and way more acceptable. Which simply says to me: Mark is growing. And he’s walking a very fine line, because he is rock-solid doctrinally, and he is accomplishing things in Seattle nobody else is accomplishing, in winning to Jesus Christ… they had 400 baptisms on Easter Sunday morning, this year! And these people, would.. just weird people.. coming to, coming to his church. People that… I mean look at me, look at this, this is so weird. They wouldn’t come hear me for anything. They wouldn’t go to my church, but they’ll go to his church. So, I’m cutting him a lot of slack because of the mission. So, it’s kind of a both end for me. You don’t need to go as far as you’ve gone sometimes with your language, but I understand what you’re doing, missiologically [I think] there and I have a lot of sympathy for it because I’d like to see those people saved. And yet I don’t want to see, either doctrine watered down – which he doesn’t at all – or, holiness watered down, which is John MacArthur’s big concern and I’m concerned with him…. That’s enough of that… unless you want to go further? I’ll just.. no I can’t say any more. Watch for more, on the Internet.

The difference between me and MacArthur at this point is: I’m not drawing the line that John [MacArthur] has drawn from the imperfections of Mark’s ministry to his unfitness for ministry. Because that’s where it seems John has gone, he says: “It’s over. Marks should resign. Nobody should go to his church. He’s unqualified for ministry” and I’m not going there. Not at this point anyway. I’m going to Mark directly. I’m getting in his face. I’m talking about… I’ve got more issues than just language, that I’m talking about, in his face, pleading with him: “look guy, you’ve got an influence that’s absolutely incredible”, and he knows that, [that's] part of the problem. “And I want you to be a good steward of this. I’m old enough to be your dad.” I am. I have a son older than Mark Driscoll, wait a minute, Mark Driscoll is 38 now I think, so my son is one year younger, so I’m old enough to be his dad. And he knows that, I’m in his face, ’cause I’m saying: “Look, come on. Just clean this up.”

Let’s get real specific for a minute, you ask how I’m dealing with this. When I was sent, by John MacArthur, the fated Song of Solomon, Edinburgh sermon that John critiqued two weeks ago online, I listened to it and thought it was horrible. I got on my Internet and wrote a three page single page letter to Mark Driscoll: “.. this is horrible…. and here are my 8 exogenical [i think] reasons … and then a few pastoral reasons ….. ” Within one hour that was off the Resurgents website, and an email had gone to Edinburgh and Glasgow to pull it down. That’s significant. That was a son-like response to this fatherly: “Come on! That’s over the top….don’t… that’s not the way to do it.”

HT Evangelical Village

  • Keystone

    Is there a transcript for this available online?

    Deaf and the Hard of Hearing have no use for Ipod or VideoPods. or even a radio for that matter. We must read.

    I do not seek they be abolished, for my friends who are blind need this medium to be informed. Spiritually, the entire audience may be deaf and blind, so reach both, with written and oral presentations of any message.

    I would like to read what was said in this topic.
    I am grateful for any help you provide toward that endeavor.

    Elsewhere online, I am reading of “John MacArthur on Marc Driscoll”.
    And then, I read about John MacArthur and John Piper on Driscoll, which led me here. Apparently, that subject is misleading, as YOUR title here has Piper speaking on BOTH men, not just Driscoll.

    I have no way to compare or be informed, as I do not hear.

    A transcript would be appreciated.

    Ps. These Ipods and Video Pods are a great way to ignore anyone who is losing hearing, or has lost it entirely. As the population ages, use of these tools will allow more and more folks to be excluded….please consider that as you go to voice only.

    And Pastors, please consider standing at the podium so your lips can be read.
    The need for physical exercise during service, by racing from one side of the platform to the other has you turning your back on 90% of the audience, no matter which direction you run. Stand firm!…and at the podium, so we who do not hear can read your lips, or in this case online, a transcript after the fact.

    Thank you.

    • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

      Hey there – I don’t have a transcript available at present, but you definitely make a great point about the importance.

      • Keystone

        Thank you for your reply.

        Perhaps staff can write this out from the presentation apparently available for “all who have ears to hear”. That is not me, however.

        I will check back to see if any written presentation of those words comes later, and meander through other areas of interest on the Homepage. I pray they are not all voice only.

        Blessings to you this day.

    • Peter

      Keystone. I just typed this up, so it’s not an official transcript but it should give you the gist of this talk. Keep in mind that John Piper sounds very kind throughout and there is a lot of good humoured response to him from the audience. God bless.
      —–transcript of video follows—-
      Question: Thank you for Pastor John. Wanted to ask you, this is a pretty big subject in the church today, the idea of Pastors and lay leaders even, using perhaps more course language from the pulpit, kind of bringing things down a level and not being holy in their speech, and it seems to be a bit of a problem, and somebody may call us nitpickers for wanting the speech coming from the pulpit to actually be glorifying in every way, and I just wanted to get your opinions on that. There’s a lot of stuff on the Internet, bantering back and forth, back and forth and I just wanted to get your opinion on it, thank you.

      John Piper: Oh I’m right in the thick of it. And the two people of course are John MacArthur and Mark Driscoll, right? I assume that’s where you’re going. And everybody knows that I’ve been friendly with Mark Driscoll, because he’s been at two of our conferences and I’ll be with him in two weeks. And I love John MacArthur with all my heart and I’m going to be with him – if he’ll still have me – in June. So, I love him, love him, what a grand, great, 40 years. So, amen!

      So, he spent 4 blog posts criticising Mark Driscoll two weeks ago, and Mark has stuck him foot in his mouth quite a few times. I would encourage nobody to become course, filthy, ugly, trashy. I’ve had to repent… I could tell you the worse word I’ve ever used in a sermon but if I did I would get in trouble to say it. It isn’t a four-letter word, it’s … I forget how many letters it is… it’s like one of those.

      So, I’ve been there, and I know how easy it is to create effect. And with a certain young crowd, it’s hip, it’s cool, it’s the way you feel. You know, you dress a certain way, and you watch certain movies, and you talk a certain way and then you’re hip, and thus attract a certain crowd. So I don’t think your mouth needs to be dirty in order to relate to 20-somethings in Seattle. And I think Mark knows that, I think Mark knows that. I assume he’ll hear this, probably, what I’m saying right now. I count him as a good friend. I spent an hour with him two weeks ago, at the Gospel Coalition, talking about these things.

      The difference between me and MacArthur at this point is: I’m not drawing the line that John [MacArthur] has drawn from the imperfections of Mark’s ministry to his unfitness for ministry. Because that’s where it seems John has gone, he says: “It’s over. Marks should resign. Nobody should go to his church. He’s unqualified for ministry” and I’m not going there. Not at this point anyway. I’m going to Mark directly. I’m getting in his face. I’m talking about… I’ve got more issues than just language, that I’m talking about, in his face, pleading with him: “look guy, you’ve got an influence that’s absolutely incredible”, and he knows that, [that's] part of the problem. “And I want you to be a good steward of this. I’m old enough to be your dad.” I am. I have a son older than Mark Driscoll, wait a minute, Mark Driscoll is 38 now I think, so my son is one year younger, so I’m old enough to be his dad. And he knows that, I’m in his face, ’cause I’m saying: “Look, come on. Just clean this up.”

      Let’s get real specific for a minute, you ask how I’m dealing with this. When I was sent, by John MacArthur, the fated Song of Solomon, Edinburgh sermon that John critiqued two weeks ago online, I listened to it and thought it was horrible. I got on my Internet and wrote a three page single page letter to Mark Driscoll: “.. this is horrible…. and here are my 8 exogenical [i think] reasons … and then a few pastoral reasons ….. ” Within one hour that was off the Resurgents website, and an email had gone to Edinburgh and Glasgow to pull it down. That’s significant. That was a son-like response to this fatherly: “Come on! That’s over the top….don’t… that’s not the way to do it.”

      Now he preached on Song of Solomon two years later, that was the 2007, at least a year later. I think what he did with his Church was way more mellow, and way more acceptable. Which simply says to me: Mark is growing. And he’s walking a very fine line, because he is rock-solid doctrinally, and he is accomplishing things in Seattle nobody else is accomplishing, in winning to Jesus Christ… they had 400 baptisms on Easter Sunday morning, this year! And these people, would.. just weird people.. coming to, coming to his church. People that… I mean look at me, look at this, this is so weird. They wouldn’t come hear me for anything. They wouldn’t go to my church, but they’ll go to his church. So, I’m cutting him a lot of slack because of the mission. So, it’s kind of a both end for me. You don’t need to go as far as you’ve gone sometimes with your language, but I understand what you’re doing, missiologically [I think] there and I have a lot of sympathy for it because I’d like to see those people saved. And yet I don’t want to see, either doctrine watered down – which he doesn’t at all – or, holiness watered down, which is John MacArthur’s big concern and I’m concerned with him…. That’s enough of that… unless you want to go further? I’ll just.. no I can’t say any more. Watch for more, on the Internet.

      • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

        Hey Peter, thanks for taking the time to do transcribe this – it’s much appreciated.

  • Peter

    Keystone, I feel that I should tell you that I have nothing to do with this blog and can’t take credit for any of the work they do for the sake of Christ. This is my first time visiting here, and after listening to Piper, I noticed your comment.

    I think Piper is very good at living out the truth that we all benefit from extending grace, upon grace. Forgiving as we have been forgiven.

    God bless.

    • Keystone

      Dear Peter,

      In the arrest of Christ in the Garden, it was a Peter, who drew a small sword and sliced the ear of the arresting officer, named Malchus.

      In a final and largely ignored miracle, Christ restored the ear, and the hearing,
      for bloodshed was not to be His way.

      But this day, in an attempt to understand ministry gone awry, and make sense of it, it was a Peter, who restored my ability to “hear”, albeit with my eyes.

      Whatever motivated you to do this for me, I am grateful.
      It will be remembered.
      It is my first visit here too, on this page for this blog.
      I fully intend to read more.

      As for Mr. Piper, I have just received 6 of his works from Alibris and look forward to reading his gentle sunshine, versus the blowing winds, to make a traveller remove a cape.
      I encourage you to pray for Abraham and Molly Piper too.

      God be with you.

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  • Salvatore Ippolito

    Interestingly, no one seems to be mentioning this guy’s egotism or lack of humility. I certainly have no problem with a church having a head elder or sole pastor for preaching. But itsn’t this guy kind of rediculous? He’s the star of the show, and any kind of imbalance on his part takes center stage. He looks dangerous to me. The other side to it, as I see things, is that he has a nasty way about him. I don’t think he’s polite enough to represent the church. (He’s trying to hard to be inconsiderate and thoughtless rather than showing them something better).

    • Peter

      Salvatore:

      Are you referring to Piper, Driscoll or MacArthur? Piper was once asked how he remained humble, in light of the position he holds, and the successes of his ministry, and he replied with the question “Why says I’m humble?”

      But, I assume that you are talking about Driscoll, and there I would agree that at times he seems to be egotistical, but he (like Piper) seems to also be aware of this aspect of his nature and is trying to keep it in check. In my opinion, all three of these guys are being used mightily by the Lord for the sake of his Kingdom. All three preach with authority and that can come across as lacking in humility at times. However, in Philippians 2, we learn about the humility of Jesus, and since we know that he was humble we should use his example as a definition of humility. He spoke with authority, he said things that the “religious” didn’t like. He upset people!

      Humility and piety are not the same thing.

      Having said that, I do agree with you that there are dangers to this kind of setup in churches. I’m not sure why it’s such a popular format and you’d expect that, in churches as large as these, there should be many men capable of teaching from the Bible. It must be hard for Driscoll to remain grounded given the success of his ministry, however, if you listen to him speak on this issue, the glory is always to God.

      Ultimately, God can use anyone to bring glory to himself, and to get his work done. He even used a talking donkey once, so why not men like Driscoll?

      I pray for Driscoll, along with many other young men who are in similar positions to him, and although I agree with you on some of your points, we must remember that these are human beings.

      I would also put “politeness” way down my list of necessary attributes for church representatives.

      Still, we need to be careful who we are following. It must be Christ alone, and I do fear that Driscoll has followers that are not following Christ. And as Piper reminds us from time to time, the best people to look to are the dead guys. The ones who have finished the race and ended well. If, God forbid, Driscoll, or Piper, or MacArthur were to slip up, how many would fall with them?

      This is one reason I believe these mega churches with one main pastor are a little scary in concept.

      • http://www.facebook.com/richard.irvin.79 Richard Irvin

        Yes, yes, yes. I have seen these assaults in various times and places through the years, and am surprised how readily people will believe the lies of the evil one. He is not stupid, he knows how to fool us, to make us grab onto things that are much less important than we think. God is beautiful and he calls us to that beauty, to be like him to hate all sin. And yet to truly know we are rotten through and through, yet we broken things are given an amazing primary task of bringing the gospel to the lost. We will write on blogs and unknowingly grow proud as we write, wallowing in a subtle ugly sin. We will sin, we will say wrong things, often, anther reason we are called to pray without ceasing. We are called to love all our brothers and sisters with all our heart, as Jesus did and does. Does Mark sin, yes every day, as do I and all of you. Focus on the true gospel, love and have confidence in nothing else. Nothing.

      • ajma

        As someone who’s listen to Mark on podcasts over the years but has recently joined Mars Hill Church in the last year, I was a bit surprised to see his growth in humility. Not saying that he’s all the way there, but there’s definite growth from his younger years. I personally find it helpful to see a pastor growing. It encourages me to grow too.

  • Salvatore Ippolito

    Yes, I agree. I was referring to Driscoll. I think Piper and MacArthur are more old-fashioned, so they tend to come off as polite most of the time. Driscoll is perhaps trying to be popular, caters to grunge, and winds up coming off nastily.

    • ajma

      If you hear about Mark’s background, he doesn’t have a very good earlier life. I don’t think Mark is purposely trying to become like the people he’s trying to minister to, he was raised like them. If you listen to some of Mark’s earlier stuff and then some of his recent stuff, you’ll definitely see growth, which is sanctification at work.

  • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

    Driscoll can definitely come across that way; not sure if you’d agree, but I’ve found him to be actively trying to be less of an offence in recent years.

  • Salvatore Ippolito

    Well, you know, these things go in cycles. The other thing that comes to mind is that different speakers reach different audiences. I guess I’m starting to wonder if Calvinism might be a trend too. Much of Calvinism seems quite biblical. But I’m unsure as to the systematic approach—sometimes I think it might be artificial when we get thoroughly Calvinistic about Scripture. And that troubles me. Arminianism can be systematic, but Calvinism more so. All this brings me to a broader theory I have that we generally correct imbalances with further imbalances; the pendulum keeps swinging back and forth. Recently, some have been speaking of a third way though. I’m wondering if there might be a middle or third way through the polarization. Perhaps we can discuss theology outside the categories of Arminianism and Calvinism and without regard to the usual terms of debate. I’m wondering if it’s possible in this way to reach greater understanding of God’s Word. N.T. Wright and Scot McKnight come to mind although I’m sure there are others who’re on that path (Franky Schaeffer seems kind of goofy so I wouldn’t recommend him).

  • Chris

    When I click this link the video never appears, when I follow it further to vodpod site, it says loading, but never loads. Any suggestions?

  • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

    Hey Chris, a commenter a few months back actually took the time to transcribe it for the benefit of a hearing impaired reader; I’m pasting his transcript into the main post now.

  • Christian Baxter

    Aaron, I have really enjoyed browsing through your blog (and comments) I appreciate how you have chosen to respond to everyone positively and objectively, letting your blog speak for itself. Because of your blog, I have been inspired to try and search out other blogs. So I guess I am just saying thank you for using your passion for your Savior and for His Church.

    Peace and Grace,
    Christian

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Thanks Christian – I greatly appreciate your kind words. (I also checked out the band site – very nice stuff!)

      Take care, brother!

  • Claire-Elizabeth Djaballah

    More of Mark Driscoll’s critics need to read this balanced viewpoint. Thanks very much for sharing it with his followers and his critics. So many people dismiss him, based on rumour and jealosy fuelled by gossip.
    No he isn’t perfect, but as he gets older and more seasoned in faith, and listenes to and acts apon godly advice, there is less and less to find fault with.
    He is a godly man who practices what he preaches, even to accepting rebuke from spiritsul elders.
    He is winning thousands to Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in Seattle and around the globe. Mars Hill ministers to single mothers, prostitutes and the poor not just by sending money to so far away place- but are serving in what was the least churched city in the U.S, in the name of Jesus Christ.
    If his doctrine is sound and his church, Christ’s church is serving others, loving others in the name of Jesus- why should, as most of his harshest critics are, his brothers and sisters in Christ, ripping him down? Surely we should first see what we are doing, individually to bring people to Jesus, and then judge.

    • anon

      I’m not sure he IS accepting rebuke from spiritual leaders; there have been no public apologies for the hurt that sermon caused, and no change of attitude towards women (see his facebook page for where he called out Esther as a “sexual sinner” whilst ignoring the gross immorality of the king involved). Also, just because people are getting saved doesn’t mean his motives are correct- see Phillippians for details. Just praise God that He is working, and we need to stop attributing salvation to Mark Driscoll or any other preacher- only Jesus saves. Since when is it wrong to call out a guy for “not behaving in line with the truth of the gospel”? Galatians 2:11 Anyone who tells (only) women “Jesus Christ commands” [you to do a certain sexual act] has a problem, and since Mars Hill and those it influences won’t deal with it, the church universal is rising up.

      • ajma

        Um, if you listen to the Esther sermons, almost all of them are super hard on the king.

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  • Steven

    Thanks for making this transcript available.

    Just wanted to point out that your photo caption – ‘Driscoll punches Piper’ – is incorrect; he is in fact ‘fist-bumping’ the fellow to John Piper’s right.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Yep, I know, but it was funny. Regardless, I’ve changed it.

  • Seattledude

    it’s kinda like when rappers have beef i guess.  

  • tom schnable

    this is an old article but i think you are missing the seriousness of the issue concerning mark driscoll. john piper or johnnie mac can go off the reservation and they have churches and denoms they are accountable to. Mark d. made up his church out of whole cloth and is really accountable to no one. He is a loose cannon and its because he set kit up that way from the jump. hey, i’ve got a rock solid theology but i’m a box of rocks and i’d be screened out quick, and rightly so. mark avoided that process and now that he’s leading hundreds to christ he can run off to piper et al and avoid being accountable in his own back yard. anybody see a megalomaniac here besides me?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Peter-Ratcliff/1357964658 Peter Ratcliff

    http://www.driscollcontroversy.com/ gives a lot more information to help you work this out.

  • Ken McDuff

    I moved to Seattle almost four years ago and have been attending Mars Hill for the past couple of years. I have heard lots of negative comments about Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll, but after attending week and week, I don’t understand all of the criticism. Yes, Mark is on the edgy side, but the criticism I hear and read is far from what I have experienced in his sermons. Perhaps he has mellowed over the years. I don’t know. I don’t agree with Mark on every topic, but I respect him as a pastor who preaches the gospel of grace with boldness.

    • Rosanne van Haaften

      Ken,
      I am glad I read your comment here. I live in Holland, but I have been listening to Mark Driscoll via internet for the last two years. Recently I was warned by friends not to take him that serious, because they ”had heard” strange things about him, and he’d probably said things that are not true. I was shocked. I didn’t understand why, because I really love his preaching and teaching. He is straight down the line, and that is what we in Holland are like. I thought I maybe had listened to a ”false prophet” for two years. So I looked up some information on the net. And like you, I have read lots of negative comments. All I could find was people talking trash about MD. I did some research, and it looks like there are kind of ”two sides”: the ones who love MacArthur and the MD fans, am I right? I don’t know much of both of them. But what I do know is that I haven’t stopped listening to MD, because I think he teaches the truth. (I am not saying MacArthur isn’t, don’t get me wrong). And it’s all about the truth, isn’t it?

    • LeeRaleigh

      These nine MArs Hill pastors know more than I do about the subject: http://www.religionnews.com/2014/08/28/step-full-text-mars-hill-pastors-letter-mark-driscoll/

  • michael

    Do we now live in an age where holiness is not a standard for his people especially the pulpit? This should be a no brainer. Just because you have your doctrine right does not excuse the need to relativize the gospel in order to make it appealing to those who feel it is foolish 1 Cor. 1:17 … The gospel stands alone as effective and anything we add to it, even eloquence of speech or degrading speech, only lessons its effectiveness.

  • PJ Tibayan

    I love John MacArthur. I graduated from The Master’s Seminary and College. My brother graduated from Bethlehem College and Seminary. I love John Piper. It turns out on this point John MacArthur was on to something given the recent accusations regarding Driscoll. Maybe it was keen insight or coincidence. I used to agree with Piper on this. At this point, with those I know critiquing Driscoll lovingly and with Acts29 removing him with the statement that they themselves thought he should step down from ministry at least for a season, MacArthur was right.

    Should we have known 6 years ago when MacArthur was saying this? I’m not sure. But if we should’ve I want to know why I didn’t so I can learn moving forward.

  • LeeRaleigh

    It looks like MacArthur was simply five years ahead of the rest of these guys in discernment of Mark Driscoll’s fitness.