Mark Driscoll (left) and John MacArthur
Courtesy photos
Mark Driscoll (left) and John MacArthur

MacArthur vs. Driscoll: It’s discouraging to young Christians like me


I respect John MacArthur and Mark Driscoll. Both defend the faith and powerfully preach the Word. They care deeply about Scripture and upholding truth. Both MacArthur and Driscoll proclaim the name of Jesus and love His church. Sadly, though, it seems both are so bent on their own version of church or the agenda of their respective messages that they undermine the respect young people like me have (or ought to, or want to have). 

Last week, MacArthur hosted a conference in Southern California called Strange Fire, the theme of which was similar to his prominent book, Charismatic Chaos. Without getting into too many theological nuances, its emphasis was to caution against the charismatic movement and those spiritual gifts defined as miraculous. Along with his stance against a charismatic interaction with the Holy Spirit, MacArthur has spoken out against the young Reformed contingent and against more missional churches for their engagement with culture. To young Christians, like me, John MacArthur is known much more for what he is opposed to than for what he believes in. 

Mark Driscoll is the other side of the same coin. The Seattle pastor has long been an object of MacArthur’s criticism for his sermons and writings about sex, his blunt sarcasm, and aggressive manner as well as his engagement in, or defense of, elements of culture many deem sinful—R-rated movies, ultimate fighting, alcohol, etc. He is a lightning-rod figure regularly embroiled in controversy and has become polarizing for it.

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Last week Driscoll showed up, uninvited, at the Strange Fire conference at MacArthur’s Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif., intending to give away his new book. He detailed his actions on Twitter to his 428,000 followers. Driscoll claims to have had his books confiscated by the church’s security team, although there is evidence to the contrary, and a Twitter storm ensued. You can read a more full account here.

I can’t determine the heart of either of these men, but the results of their actions are discouraging. When younger Christians look to these prominent leaders, what do we see? We see discord between our shepherds and wedges being driven into the church over personal agendas and theological points that, while important, aren’t the heart of orthodoxy. They leave no room for discourse, reasonableness, or humble dialogue. We are like children sitting at the table while Mom and Dad fight.  

We want to respect John MacArthur and Mark Driscoll. God gifted them and has saved many through their ministries and grown many more. But this divisive nonsense hurts the church—real people who need and want to be led. It hurts to see beliefs and agendas wielded like weapons. What is it we ask for? We ask to be led, both in word and deed, toward humility and Christlikeness. Show us how to believe strongly, have convictions, and share them, not fight over them. That is what we would truly respect.

Barnabas Piper
Barnabas Piper

Barnabas works for Lifeway Christian Resources and is the author of The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity and Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not the Enemy of Faith. He and his wife live in the Nashville area with their two daughters. Follow Barnabas on Twitter @BarnabasPiper.


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