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.”