Driscoll & Brierley on Women in LeadershipJanuary 15, 2012
Justin Brierley, the unfailingly polite host of the British radio program, Unbelievable, recently podcast the entirety of his hour-long interview with Mark Driscoll.
Things did not go well.
There are many moments in this interview that could provide fodder for discussion. For example, Christians in the UK may be rather non-plussed by Driscoll impugning their entire country for not having, well, Mark Driscoll:
Driscoll: I go too far sometimes. Almost every other pastor I know doesn’t go far enough and that’s okay ’cause the church tends to be led by people who are timid and fearful of going too far. I mean, let’s just say this. … Right now, name for me the one young good Bible teacher that’s known across Great Britain.
Brierley: Hmm …
Driscoll: You don’t have one. That is a problem. There’s a bunch of cowards who aren’t telling the truth.
Brierley: So you think that the Bible teaches …
Driscoll: You don’t have one. You don’t have one young guy who can preach the Bible that anybody’s listening to on the whole earth.
I’ll leave it to the Brits to decide whether their churches suffer from a glut of cowards and a want of controversial celebrity preachers.
Much of the interview revolved around Driscoll’s views on women and their role in marriage and the church. When Brierley confessed that his own wife is, in fact, the pastor of his church, things got incredibly awkward:
Driscoll: I’m not shocked by the answer, by the questions you ask. I love you, but you’re annoying. ‘Cause you’re picking on all the same issues that those who are classically evangelical, kind of liberal, kind of feminist do.
Brierley: I think it’s because those are the issues here that people are thinking about. … [Brierley says he's impressed by much of what Mars Hill Church is doing].
Driscoll: Kay, let me ask you a few hard questions.
Brierley: Go ahead, go ahead.
Driscoll: So, in the church that your wife pastors, how many young men have come to Christ in the last year?
[It's clear from the tone of Driscoll's question that this is not a bona fide inquiry about the souls in Brierley's church. It's a veiled criticism. Driscoll is going to prove that women pastors can't get the job done (i.e. attracting men to the church) and he's going to belittle Brierley's wife & church to do it.]
Brierley: Well we’re not a huge church, unlike yours, but I’d say there’s two or three probably in the last year who certainly, yah, I’d say have come to Christ in a pretty meaningful way.
Driscoll: Okay and in the church, what percentage is young men, single men?
Brierley: It’s difficult to say off the top of my head, but I’ll freely say it’s certainly not a big percentage, no.
Driscoll: Kay, and are you okay with that? Do you think that’s the best way to go?
Brierley: No, but can it be so easily put down to the fact that the church is being run by a woman? I mean, is that …
Driscoll: Yup. Yup. You look at your results, you look at my results, and you look at the variable that’s most obvious.
[Yes, he did just say that. His results are better than hers. And it's because he's a man and she's a woman.]
Brierley: Well, in our case, the …
Driscoll: This is where the excuses come, not the verses. This is where the excuses come, not the verses.
Brierley: … Up to the point my wife took over, it had been run by men. Since she’s come, lots of new families, lots of younger people, both men and women, have come. I wouldn’t say the balance is right perfect yet by any means. But it’s certainly a lot better than it ever was. And so I don’t necessarily see quite the same situation that you paint there in terms of men not relating. I see more men in the church since she’s been there than before she was there, in a way.
Driscoll: What kind of men? Strong men?
[The implication here is obvious. Only weak, limp-wristed mama's boys would be attracted to a church with a female leader, right? Tough men like Driscoll certainly wouldn't be. Brierley seems genuinely baffled by such a stupid question.]
Brierley: Well, men. I mean, men come in different shapes and sizes. I mean, yah, both really. Men who are very masculine, men who are, I guess, on a spectrum, more effeminate. But I couldn’t say that there’s been a sort of dearth of men in the church since she’s arrived. I mean, Mark, I don’t want to get into a sort of argument.
Driscoll: No, no, you don’t want to sit in my seat, I understand. So does your wife do counseling with men? Sexual counseling? Does she talk about masturbation, pornography, the stuff that I do?
Brierley: Well no, she doesn’t.
Driscoll: Well, who does talk to the men about those things, especially the young men?
Brierley: Well there are other people that she can pass them on to. We have male elders in our church who, you know, would be able to tackle those kinds of questions. I mean, but would you speak with those kinds of issues to a female in your church?
Driscoll: Uh no. If they’re a married couple we might meet with them as a couple. But if it’s a woman, we would have women leaders meet with them.
Brierley: Sure, well it’s the same scenario in our church really.
Driscoll: Well except for who’s in charge.
[This part is almost comical. Driscoll seems to think he's got a real zinger. If a woman is pastor, who's going to do all that important sex counseling that Driscoll seems so obsessed with? Faced with the rather obvious explanation that it's the same in Brierley's church as in his own (men counsel men and women counsel women) Driscoll insists that it's still not as good because the men aren't "in charge".]
Brierley: Well what’s wrong with… I mean, I agree, obviously theologically we’re not on the same page here Mark in terms of…
Driscoll: Do you believe in a conscious literal eternal torment of hell?
Brierley: What has that got to do with the issue of women in leadership, if you don’t mind me asking?
Driscoll: It does. It depends on your view of God. Is God like a mom who just embraces everyone? Or is he like a father who also protects, and defends, and disciplines? If you won’t answer the question, I think I know the answer.
Driscoll goes on to grill Brierley about whether he believes in penal substitution. When Brierley replies that it’s a valid way of understanding the meaning of the cross, Driscoll isn’t satisfied, calls him a “coward”, and eventually tells him to stop “drinking decaf” and get “more courage”.
It’s clear that Driscoll’s male supremacy vibe has implications for all of his theology. Eternal conscious torment is a tough, manly doctrine and, therefore, superior to weak womanly ideas that don’t involve a literal fiery hell. Real men, brave men espouse a penal substitution theory of atonement without reservation. Those who prefer a more nuanced understanding are effeminate cowards.
You see, if you have doctrinal differences with Mark Driscoll, you don’t just disagree with him; you are inferior to him. And he’s got the church-growth results to prove it.
There’s so much more that could be said, but I’ll leave that to others. Besides, given that I don’t share Driscoll’s doctrinal stances, I’ve probably got to go paint my nails or tease my hair or something.
[Edit: Based on a few of the comments I've received on this post, I want to add some clarification. I would be the first to agree that by no means is Driscoll this abrasive throughout the entire interview. Most of the time, he and Brierley got along fine (although I think the mood soured a bit at around the 17 minute mark when Driscoll called Brierley "immature" for asking what I thought was a perfectly legitimate question).
Some have wondered whether these quotes are taking Driscoll out of context. The first quote about the "cowards" in UK churches (28 minute mark) came in the context of Driscoll being asked if he regretted his Facebook comment that encouraged people to share stories about "effeminate anatomically male worship leaders". He agreed that he had gone too far but then said what you see transcribed above. Seems beset with regret, doesn't he?
The transcribed portion of the interview about women takes you from 49:40 through 53:30. Everything is there (except a few lines by Brierley about admiring Mars Hill, which I summarized for brevity). My square bracketed interjections do not represent missing context. What you read above is the entire 4 minute exchange. Yes, there is context before and context after. But I fail to see how that minimizes the legitimate concerns about what he said in the middle. I can understand a one-liner being "taken out of context". It's hard to take 4 solid minutes of conversation out of context. You can listen to the full interview here.]