Time to Give Mark Driscoll a Sabbatical?

There’s a lot to like about what Mark Driscoll has done in his pastoral work at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Sadly, however, there’s a lot to dislike, too.

Brother Mark is right, for example, to bemoan the lack of clear preaching of the Bible that calls people to intellectual and moral account, rather than merely entertaining them or confirming them in their blithe consumerism.

He’s also right to worry about the feminization of much North American Christianity–a trend noticed by church historians also that reaches back to the nineteenth century. (I say this as a feminist who sees this trend as unhelpful for both men and women. A good popular-level roundup of these concerns can be found in David Murrow’s Why Men Hate Going to Church–a book that I judge to be about 80 per cent right, 10 per cent not right, and 10 per cent wildly wrong—mostly in its John Eldredge-inspired recommendations—which is a pretty good average for a book on such a contentious and wide-ranging subject.)

Alas, Brother Mark responds to these valid concerns too often with bad preaching of a bad message. Recently he managed to demonstrate both problems in all of six minutes. This video clip shows Mr. and Mrs. Driscoll answering a question about the legitimacy of stay-at-home husbands (HT: J. Barrett Lee). In these six minutes, a number of theological problems, in fact, emerge.

For a man who preaches that women aren’t supposed to teach men, it seems immediately odd that Brother Mark has his wife offer Scriptural teaching in their church, which she does as this clip starts off. I expect that he legitimizes what to many of his ilk must appear to be disobedience to Scripture (“I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent”–I Tim. 2:12) by claiming that his wife is under his authority, or perhaps under the authority of the elders of the church. This is a common expedient among evangelicals, the “Under Authority Arrangement,” as I call it, that doesn’t actually appear anywhere in the Bible, nor is it taught anywhere in Scripture, but is certainly something for which a pragmatic feminist such as I am is grateful: It lets women speak, even if under strange (and unbiblical) constraints.

We are thus told, by Mrs. Driscoll as well as then by her husband, that a man who does not provide for his wife and children is flatly disobeying God. If she is out working and he isn’t–save only in extreme cases of injury, sickness, or other physical debility (unemployment is not mentioned as an excuse)–he is “worse than an unbeliever.”

That last phrase comes from the text–the one and only text–adduced by the Driscolls on behalf of their forbiddance of men staying home and women working: I Timothy 5:8. And now a cascade of basic exegetical, theological, and homiletical problems begins:

1. The passage in question has nothing to do with gender roles. The context clearly has a single, very different, issue in mind. Widows in Timothy’s church were not being looked after by their relatives and so were posing a financial hardship for the church. Some were also apparently exploiting their status for charity they did not deserve. So Paul warns the Christians, via Timothy, that they must do what even non-Christians understand to be a matter of basic obligation: support your kinfolk.

2. Thus the “worse than an unbeliever” charge, which sounds pretty harsh and not terribly appreciative of non-Christians on the lips of a twenty-first-century Seattle couple with no interpretive context given (I mean, are non-Christians really so bad?!), is really just Paul saying, “We Christians are called to live by a standard better than those around us, but failing to render financial support to your relatives isn’t even meeting the lowest common denominator of morality all around us.”

3. The passage has nothing to do with a couple who decide that, for at least a while, the mother will work outside the home while the father works inside the home caring for the children. Any argument one wants to raise against that option–which is exactly what lots of contemporary Christian couples nowadays elect, whether because Dad is finishing his education, or Dad has been laid off, or Mom wants to get back to work she loves while Dad longs to connect more with their kids–or the option of both spouses going to work in order to provide properly for their family, must be raised from other Scripture, not this one. And good luck finding that other Scripture.

4. Brother Driscoll then assures his audience that since he has read the whole Bible–which seems a rather basic thing for a pastor to claim–and can’t think of any Bible verse that justifies a husband staying home and a woman working, then there is no such verse and there could be no legitimate grounds for another view. “You can argue with me all day,” he assures us, and his mind will not be changed. Oh, dear: Do we preachers really want to sound like that? And on a subject like this?

5. Brother Driscoll also quickly dismisses any alternative intepretation that might render this teaching a matter of “culture.” That use of “culture” is code-language among preachers like Mr. Driscoll for something like “trying to dodge the abiding truth of God’s Word by relegating its universal, eternal teachings to a distant and long-past alternative social situation.”

I’m sympathetic with his aversion to such dodges. They are indeed rife and ought to be both exposed and resisted.

But the exegetical effect of misusing the category of “culture” works both ways. In this case, Brother Driscoll’s teaching is deeply embedded in, and makes a sort of sense only for, one social situation: middle-class people (or richer) who can live on the husband’s single paycheque that he earns in work undertaken outside the home.

Yet before the Industrial Revolution, and in many parts of the world today, the workplace is the home, and husbands and wives work together in the family farm, or shop, or service, or whatever. Furthermore, in many modern societies even in so-called developed economies, the days of a living wage being paid to men on which they can then support a wife and kids have disappeared for everyone below the middle-middle class—a reality affecting, I daresay, a significant number of people living in Brother Driscoll’s own city of Seattle.

So that can’t possibly be what the Holy Spirit was telling Paul to tell the rest of us everywhere and always. Brother Mark’s interpretation is obviously culture-specific, ironically enough, and therefore not plausible.

6. Finally, Brother Driscoll warns his audience that the Biblical teaching is so clear on this subject than any couple found departing from his interpretation would be subject to church discipline at Mars Hill. Really? Church discipline is being threatened (and, yes, “threatened” is the operative verb here) on a matter (badly) argued from a single passage? I’m all for church discipline–another important subject on which Brother Mark and I agree–but I would think that Mars Hill, like any contemporary church, would have its hands full with church disciplinary matters far more clear and far better evidenced from the Bible than this one.

I don’t know what theological training Mrs. Driscoll has received. The Mars Hill website claims that Brother Mark “received a B.A. in Speech Communications from Washington State University and holds a master’s degree in Exegetical Theology from Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon.” I confess to wondering what his professors at Western Seminary would think of this exercise in exegetical theology.

Mark Driscoll, I repeat, has doubtless done much good for the Kingdom of God and has a lot to offer it still. He’s undeniably energetic, charismatic, and principled. But my goodness: how he has strayed from the basic exegetical teaching I trust he received at Western! How much damage he is doing by misreading the Scripture and then dogmatically declaiming his errors with the full weight of his Big Church and even larger network behind him.

I expect he won’t listen to me: We haven’t met and I have no reason to think he would pay my opinion much attention. But I hope his big brothers in the American Reformed circle he frequents, such as John Piper and Tim Keller, will take him aside and remind him of the basic exegetical do’s and don’t’s he seems somehow, somewhere to have abandoned. Perhaps he is due for a well-deserved study break to regroup, re-establish his basic tools, and hear what God wants him to do next–and how God wants him to do it.

If instead, however, he persists in such troubling exegesis, theology, and preaching, the impressively innovative, faithful, and effective work done at Mars Hill will be compromised, perhaps fatally. People who find this sort of interpretation to be sexist, classist, and just plain uninformed will go elsewhere for competent Biblical preaching.

And they should.

0 Responses to “Time to Give Mark Driscoll a Sabbatical?”

  1. Keith Shields

    Professor Stackhouse, thank you for pointing out this example of poor exegesis. There are many who are being led astray by such a powerful voice.

  2. Gordon Tisher

    Driscoll’s sole ministry tactic seems to be outrage, so he needs to keep coming up with new abominations to rant about.

    The problem with this is that it quickly becomes persecution of “them” by an increasingly smaller “us”. The end result is split churches, alienated congregants, and increasingly isolated, paranoid and bizarrely-behaving leaders.

  3. Keith Shields

    Even the English Standard Version of the Bible does not translate 1 Timothy 5:8 the way Mark Driscoll speaks it. “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (ESV)
    1 Timothy 5:8 (Wescott-Hort)
    ει δε τις των ιδιων και μαλιστα οικειων ου προνοει την πιστιν ηρνηται και εστιν απιστου χειρων.

  4. Quinn McGinnis

    As a former attender of Mars Hill Church, a person who thinks Driscoll is overall a very good preacher and teacher, and a student at Regent College, I thought I should probably say something here.

    1) I also disagree with Mark’s exegesis on this one.

    2) Are you sure that Mark is “a man who preaches that women aren’t supposed to teach men”? He’s clearly complementarian, but when I was at MHC the only restriction put on women that I found was that they don’t ordain women as elder/pastors. (At MHC the elder role is considered equivalent to the pastor role). And some would make the case for that sort of restriction without reference to 1 Tim 2.

    3) “Sadly, however, there’s a lot to dislike, too.” So what would you reference aside from this specific instance? In my experience, a lot of Christians have some issues with Driscoll, but the ones that have really major issues with him tend to have really major issues with a) serious Calvinism, and/or b) complementarianism per se. If someone has major issues with serious Calvinism, complementarianism, and/or the occasional bad exegesis, he/she is going to have major issues with quite a lot of evangelical preachers/theologians, including Packer, Waltke, etc..

    • John Stackhouse


      Re 2: I’ve explained what I presume (but do not know for sure) is the situation at MHC. Again, the “Under Authority Arrangement” is typical of a number of evangelical churches and teachers who want to eat their cake (benefit from women’s gifts ) and have it, too (keep them under male authority). If anyone knows otherwise about Brother Driscoll or MHC, sound off.

      Re 3: The post is not about the “lot to dislike.” It is about this particular thing. I’ll write about other stuff–such as Driscoll’s understanding of leadership, his understanding of masculinity and femininity, his understanding of what effective preaching is, his understanding of where his competence starts and stops, and more–perhaps some other time. But for now, we’ll look at this particular teaching as an example of what I believe is common in his ministry.

      • Quinn McGinnis


        Fair enough. I don’t have much to say in response except that I appreciate the tone of what goes on here. I spent over a year of my life trying to pull together what I was seeing at MHC and the Presbyterian Church I grew up in (I attended both simultaneously for 2 years), and understand how they could both be good Churches that worship the same God. I did get to that point and it’s been quite a blessing — yes, indeed, I have been at Regent for a year now and I love Regent and think it’s a wonderful place that is doing excellent work for the Kingdom of God; I also love MHC, think Driscoll is a good preacher, and think MHC is doing excellent work for the Kingdom of God.

        But I’ve heard an enormous amount of criticism of Driscoll from Christians, both lay people and professional ministers, that is just plain invalid and/or based on false information. So in light of that, I really appreciate the patient and respectful criticism that I find here.

        Finally, for what it’s worth, in my two years at Mars Hill I found this particular teaching perhaps the easiest to disagree with. So I hope that those who are really wary of Driscoll can take that as encouragement.

        • Lee

          I attended MH for a while and left for a # of reasons but the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was the sermon where Driscoll called women demonic who disagreed with him on this very subject being discussed. Actually in that sermon he called anyone who disagreed with him demonic. These weren’t new statements but I’d heard enough over the years to make it the final straw.

    • chuck

      (3) In particular, I don’t like the shock factor Driscoll uses all too often at the expense of God’s word. Namely his series on Song of Solomon which was anything other than a disgrace. Search “The Rape of Song of Solomon.” I think Calvinism is just another tool he uses to “shock” the audience.

      Mark Driscoll is too arrogant to serve as a pastor and more church leaders need to call him out to repent – namely Piper, Keller, Chandler, etc. They seem to be silent on Driscoll’s sound bites.

  5. Dan


    Driscoll expresses his complementarianism in a way that seems to regard women as inferior, yet culpable for their husbands’ infidelity (he did suggest that Ted Haggard was gay because pastors’ wives sometimes let themselves go). I am not a complementarian, but I know plenty of complementarians who are embarrassed by Driscoll’s attempts to call his base-level sexism “complementarian.”

  6. Spencer Capier

    Why is it I get the idea that complementarianism is just a nice way to say ‘women belong in the kitchen?’ Every time I visit a church like Mars Hill, I see big boys with big toys (pickup trucks nice guitars and jet skis) and women running the place and not getting the credit.

    • naet

      “Not getting the credit”?

      Maybe if you listen to one podcast or attend only once- listen to Driscoll more before you say he doesn’t give women credit- you’ll find that he does.

    • Yuriy S

      As a frequent visitor of Mars Hill I think you have a highly convoluted and inaccurate view of the situation.

      Mark is not about degrading women but holding men accountable to adequately loving, providing for, and protecting their spouses.

      • Steven Kippel

        “Holding men accountable” is different than boasting that there are no married women in his congregation with children that work outside the home. No, that’s claiming American middle-class culture is Christian, and every other culture is, in his words, “godless.” That means poor people aren’t allowed in his congregation because they’re “godless.” That means Hispanics who have very strong family ties are “godless” because the abuelita is home caring for the children while the father and mother are both working two jobs so their family doesn’t have to rely on the “godless” welfare system.

  7. lisa@mylifebyfaith

    Quinn said:

    “Are you sure that Mark is “a man who preaches that women aren’t supposed to teach men”? He’s clearly complementarian, but when I was at MHC the only restriction put on women that I found was that they don’t ordain women as elder/pastors. (At MHC the elder role is considered equivalent to the pastor role).”

    — I visited MHC once (and, for the record, enjoyed Mark’s preaching) and got the distinct impression that they don’t let women preach, as they were calling something like 90 (or more) MEN to plant churches.

    First of all (in response to MHC), if God were to call me into preaching ministry, I wouldn’t say no because of the passage in Timothy. If it really was God calling me (which I would examine and discern through various established means), then He wouldn’t be contradicting His own word. And there are many great women preachers, at least *some* of whom must have been called by God.

    Second of all, if it’s true that pastors and elders are equivalent in MHC, then I don’t see the point in allowing women to be one and not the other.

  8. jasongoode

    Thanks, John.

    As a 65% stay-at-home-dad (my wife works 5 days a week for pay and me 3 days a week for pay), I find that I get the most flack from church friends. They seem to think that because I have a penis I should be working 20 hours more outside of the house and my wife 20 hours less outside of the house because she doesn’t…and that by making that switch, we are being more godly.

    (There is that irony, that if I was in seminary – already done that – and my wife was supporting me financially, that that would be OK. Uh huh.)

    It can be disheartening. Making ends meet these days is difficult to begin with, without getting flack from friends for how we do it. And there are all sorts of reasons why we’re in the current position we are (which no one bothers to ask). Thankfully, my immediate church family is very supportive.

    Thanks for this post. It’s nice to have someone speak out against these lame brain and quite hurtful comments.


  9. Stackhouse on Mark Driscoll « FaithinIreland

    […] Over at his blog, John Stackhouse has a thorough and much needed demolition of Mark (and Mrs’) Driscoll’s half-baked (and oh so confidently held) view that a man who stays at home to look after his family is disobeying God and will be under church discipline at Mars Hill in Seattle where Driscoll is Pastor. All built on 1 Timothy 5:8. […]

  10. Brian Moss

    Thanks for entering the fray with Brother Mark. (And thanks for your graciousness in calling him brother.) You have given me an example of how to respond carefully and critically to this kind of teaching; a response that far surpasses the one-liners I have tossed in his direction. Plus, and this is the really exciting part for me, now I get to finish my MDiv at Regent while my wife continues to diligently support me on a level above and beyond what I ever could have imagined possible.

  11. Dan

    Dear Prof. Stackhouse,

    Re, “the feminization of much North American Christianity”. Although it’s not the immediate subject of your post, and although you already point to Murrow’s book, could you briefly elaborate on what you mean by this? When I think of North American Christianity, I think of pastors carrying guns and blaming homosexuals for natural disasters — that is, anything but feminized.



    • Steven Kippel

      “Feminization” is a terrible word for this phenomenon.

      First, it blames women for a failure by men. It makes women the enemy of good.

      Second, it is not a feminine trait that is being exposed through men, but it is a power struggle by the alpha males who run the congregations, rooted in pride, that is the cause of this phenomenon.

      I don’t know any men who don’t go to services because there isn’t enough testosterone, and I know plenty of men who don’t go because their spiritual gifts are stifled by the “leadership.”

      • John Stackhouse

        Brother Steven, I’m not sure we’re talking about the same thing. I’m talking about the gender analysis along multiple axes of how church life in America (the country whose scholarship I know best–and I don’t think there is much that has been done on this question up here in Canada) has shifted toward “feminine” poles: from lyrics and musical styles in worship music, to opportunities posted for volunteer work, to styles and subjects of preaching, and on and on.

        Brother Driscoll has picked up on some of that and has offered a response. I think some of his response has been helpful and some of his response instead has been what other commentors here have said it is: a repackaging of white American machismo, which to me is unhappily and unhelpfully retrograde rather than pointing forward to a newer, better definition of masculinity.

        But more, as I say, about that in later posts…

        • Steven Kippel

          I certainly am referring to “muscular Christianity” as a movement, which is advocated by Brother Driscoll, and others. There certainly is a movement to bring machismo to the church, and this is what I’m referring to, yes. But I also think this term “feminization” is wrong to use for the reasons I did express previously.

          These men look at declining numbers of men in congregations across the continent, and they’ve blamed women for it. They think women have taken over the church, made the chairs feminine, and the bulletins, and the music, etc.

          That’s ridiculous.

          There is no such thing as “feminine lyrics” or “feminine musical genres.”

          What they’re looking for is militant themes, not masculine themes. They’re looking for a machismo which doesn’t represent all men, not even a majority of men.

          I’ve written plenty of words on this already at my blog, so I don’t want to turn your comments into a new topic, so I’ll just link it http://www.destroyideas.com/search/label/muscular%20christianity

          They’ve framed the issue as a battle between the genders, and we have to somehow model Christianity as masculine. I think it’s wrong to make Christianity either masculine or feminine, it should certainly be both (neither male nor female), and it should be formed on love (submit to one another). Instead, these men want to make it into a contest.

          • John Stackhouse

            All I can say now is that we seem to be using terms (such as “feminine” and “feminization”) differently. I’m using them in the way standard in gender/women’s studies, and you aren’t. But that’s okay: What you’re saying seems clear to me, and what I want to say I’ll say at greater length and, I trust, with greater clarity (!) some other time.

  12. D.J. Brown

    Oh dear, it’s very discouraging that for some in the evangelical church nothing has changed since I was a young woman in agony over this same argument forty years ago.

    I left long ago, but I thank those of you who can still be bothered trying to enlighten those who have their eyes closed and their hands clamped firmly over their ears.

  13. chuck

    Dr. Stackhouse,

    I have a few comments and a question.

    (1) I believe to some degree that you are wasting your breath with Mark Driscoll. Others (esp. John MacArthur) have tried for years to get Driscoll to change his ways, but he simply won’t listen. And it seems the Reformed crowd you listed such as John Piper, Matt Chandlar, & Co. won’t listen either. There was a big uproar about his exegesis of Song of Solomon saying that wives must perform oral sex on their husbands and other stuff. Maybe I missed it, but I still haven’t heard a correction out of Driscoll’s mouth.

    (2) There are several passages encouraging wives to work (ironically Song of Solomon 1:6,8 and other places in the song). Or at least it was a virtue.

    (3) I got lost in the feminist, authority part before you listed the problems. Or not lost, but don’t know if I understand your position. You say feminism is unhelpful, then call yourself a feminist. You say the “Under Authority Arrangement” is unbiblical, but you are grateful for it. I’m sure I read that part wrong, but can you explain that a little more?

    • John Stackhouse

      I don’t recall saying feminism is unhelpful, since I’m a feminist and I think it is. And my second comment is along the lines of the apostle Paul, as he is glad for Christ to be preached whatever the circumstances. Some freedom for women to preach, however unjustifiably grounded, is better than none.

    • chuck

      Thank you for your response. The quote I’m referring to is: “I say this as a feminist who sees this trend [feminization] as unhelpful for both men and women.”

      If I understand your position of women preaching, it is only justified as long as there is no other option (which is undoubtedly hardly the case in North America).

      • John Stackhouse

        The trend toward “feminization” of Christianity such that it marginalizes men is what’s bad. Feminism, working on behalf of women’s full dignity and freedom, is what’s good.

        My book, “Finally Feminist,” makes my position clear: I think women in this culture ought to be free to preach. My view is exactly the opposite of the “Missionary Exception” you cite!

    • chuck

      Ok, I’ll check the book out, thanks. Do you feel men should submit to women if they are pastor?

      • John Stackhouse

        Men should submit, as non-men should (!), to legitimate authority–whether a female police officer (some readers of this blog may not know that there is a strong movement of Christians in the States that believes men should NOT submit to ANY woman in ANY position of authority, and a traffic officer is often used as their example) or a female pastor.

        That said, since I believe that church discipline is to be rendered by church leaders as a group, and not by a pastor by himself or herself, I’m not supportive of anyone feeling he or she has to submit to anyone else in the church because that other person happens to hold this or that office in the church.

        And THAT said, I recall that the Apostle tells us to submit ourselves TO EACH OTHER in the fear of Christ!

    • john wilson

      slow down there Chuck! I have listened to the entire series on the Song of Songs and Driscoll didn’t say that women “must” perform oral sex on husbands. What he said was if they choose to it is not a sin. Quite a different point than the one you make.

  14. Benj Petroelje

    Thanks for passing this along. This saddens me more than anything. I felt like I got punched in the gut when thinking about the ramifications of such exegetical laziness/arrogance for some on his congregation. I wish I could stand at the door of MHBC and hand out this post to everyone leaving.

    What saddens me most is thinking about the conversations that must have occurred between various husbands and wives in that congregation. Did it embitter wives against their husbands for failing to provide? Did it (ironically) emasculate and feminize men who aren’t able to provide (because they clearly aren’t men anymore)?

    There is a difference between an exegetical lapse that is of relatively little significance and one that has the potential to cause rifts in marriages and further perpetuate shame in men. And there’s a difference between that kind of lapse and holding it so dogmatically that one can point their finger and tell someone they refuse to be corrected.

    Is their church discipline at MHBC for lazy, arrogant exegesis and preaching?

    One could only wish.

    Thanks for putting this in front of us John,

    Your feminized apostate student whose wife is lovingly and humbly supporting me through grad school.

  15. Adje

    Thank you for your gracious critique. I generally try to avoid MD because so much of what he says leaves me sputtering and unable to form a gracious and sisterly response.
    What bothers me so much is the “sitcom approach” that is being taken here, and though it’s used to support Driscoll’s teaching it actually unravels it. He and his wife say that “it’s just not a good idea” for him to be the one who’s raising their children in the same breath as saying that women need to be under the authority of men. I hear this so often from my “Driscollite” friends, who paint men as bumbling and incompetent and in need of their wives’ help lest they be left alone to do something horribly wrong (like poorly raise their children?)… and this is supposed to make me want to be “under authority”? I know it’s not the main point of his argument, but basically claiming to be an incompetent parent is no help either.

  16. J. Barrett Lee

    Thanks for your insight, Dr. Stackhouse.

    What fascinates me most about this video is the way one gets to see some very established sub-cultural tendencies in action.

    Between the lines of the Driscolls’ comments, I sense a degree of frustration with (post)modernity’s apparent lack of a moral compass. Overall, I share this frustration. Contemporary North American culture leaves us with seemingly endless “choices”, but no criteria for making good choices. I think this is why Driscoll uses words like “perverted, corrupted, and stupid” to describe the culture in which we live. I agree with him, to a certain extent.

    However, it makes me equally nervous when I see religious leaders marketing themselves as shelters from the moral storm. It seems to me that they are offering their followers an opportunity to dismiss themselves from the difficult processes of theological interpretation and ethical decision-making. It’s the ethical equivalent of getting someone else to do your homework for you.

    (Post)modern culture invites people to “check out” in the name of absolute uncertainty. Fundamentalist culture invites people to “check out” in the name of absolute certainty. What bothers me is not the absolute certainty or uncertainty of these groups, but the tendency to “check out” (for whatever reason).

  17. Brian LePort

    Dr. Stackhouse,

    I am currently a student at Western Seminary where Driscoll graduated. I actually completed a degree that is basically what he completed (MAET became the MA in Biblical and Theological Studies). While there may be some faculty and some students who would see eye-to-eye with him this is by no means the universal consensus (I seriously doubt even the majority consensus, at least as he has displayed his views here). Personally, I am an egalitarian and I have not been persecuted for being one.

    Driscoll is an alumni, and he has a right to express his opinion, but he is not the spokesperson nor a primary representative of Western Seminary. There is too wide an array of voices in our institution for this to be so.

  18. beth

    I am a Pastor’s wife & a mother of two kids who works outside of the home (for pay/career). While there are many things that I could raise here, I am only going to list two.

    1.) Our church, which ministers in an impoverished community desperate for the gospel literally cannot sustain my husband’s salary at a rate that we can raise a family on. (we qualify for welfare on just his salary) Therefore, we take what pay we can get, for the larger mission of reaching this community and knowingly entered into it this way. I have been blessed with a career that frees my spouse to minister in an area absent of churches. We could not do it without my salary, and I know there are many many families in our situation.

    2.) The very essence of Driscoll’s argument make little sense as it is placing higher value on a woman doing “tasks” at home than a man. Is it somehow more spiritual or qualitatively better if I make dinner than my husband? Am I as a woman innately better at playing with my kids and cleaning the floor? no, that is absurd. We co-parent and co-minister together, and enjoy every minute of it.

  19. stephy

    I live in Seattle and know more than I’d like to about Mars Hill church. I’m extremely concerned about what it is doing. Thanks for talking about this.

  20. David Peterson

    This kind of exegesis does raise serious concerns about Mark’s abilities as an interpreter of Scripture.

    To bind someone’s conscience is a serious thing.

    Praying this blog post will get back to him and challenge him to do some work in basic hermeneutics.

  21. Mark Myles

    A friend of mine sent me this blog & I would like to change my response to him a little and post it here:

    First of all, I want to be careful that we don’t fall into the trap of finding teachers to say what we want to hear, which some of the people commenting here have done.

    Secondly, I have always taken issue with any influential Christian who openly points out fault in another without first going to him (you mention above that you haven’t even met Driscoll). And it’s not really proper exegesis to interpret scripture in opposition to someone elses interpretation anyway.

    Thirdly, I think it’s clear that you take your assumptions too far and are frankly too far removed from Mars Hill to critique their ministry accurately. HOWEVER, all that aside, you, Mr. Stackhouse do a good job with 1 Tim 5:8.

    What I mean is, you are right to say that the passage is not directly saying that men ought to be the primary money-maker of the home, nor that the wives ought to be the sole child-rearers. The Bible does not teach that concept anywhere, but rather that it is the parents together who are to raise their children in God honoring ways (Prov 1:8), and in fact, the Bible more often instructs the Dads to do it (Eph 6:4).

    The Bible is clear that men are the head of the home as Christ is the head of the church, and wives are to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ (Eph 4:22-33).

    None of these passages answer the surface question of whether or not a man can be a “stay at home” dad. This is not the biblical issue. The issue issue is whether or not the man is leading like Christ in his family, providing for their spiritual needs and serving them by sacrificing even his own life to love them. And at the same time, it’s asking whether or not the wife is respecting her husband and loving her children. Titus 2:2 is one of the only passages that mentions the women ought to be working in the home and I doubt that it excludes working anywhere else (as if a woman who works outside the home relinquishes all other shared tasks in the home).

    Another passage often overlooked is Prov 31:10-31. This passage talks about the woman providing the food and even investing finances for gain and the benefit of her household. This is such a great passage that has much to say about the man’s leadership as well and providing a space for the woman to be able to do much of it.

    Stay-at-home Dads, hear me: you are not disobeying clear teaching in scripture on this issue. Could we all do a better job of leading? Yes. Could we all do a better job of raising our children and providing for the most important (spiritual) needs of our families? Indeed.

    Keep up the good work in leading your wife to be a Prov 31 woman and desiring to be biblical in you role as a husband and daddy.

    Fight for the gospel to be known among us all.

    • John Stackhouse

      Brother Mark, Thanks for your open-minded post. You’re quite wrong, however, in your criticism about my criticizing Brother Driscoll. Scroll down on my main page to find the link to the article I’ve recently written elsewhere on why I criticize other Christians, but Matthew 18 is not a generic command for all differences among believers. Mark Driscoll has not sinned against me, so the matter in Matthew 18 is not in view.

      Furthermore, the NT is full of Christians disagreeing with each other, as Christ himself rebukes his disciples, Paul disagrees with Peter, and so on. And it’s not all bad: Indeed, rebuking and correcting is part of what Paul explicitly tells Timothy to do.

      That said, I do appreciate your coming alongside me on the issue at hand, namely, how to understand gender roles regarding work at home and beyond.

      • Mark Myles

        I’m with you in that “Matthew 18 is not a generic command for all differences among believers.”
        But after reading your article, I have a little more to add regarding what I said above, namely,

        I have always taken issue with any influential Christian who openly points out fault in another without first going to him (you mention above that you haven’t even met Driscoll). And it’s not really proper exegesis to interpret scripture in opposition to someone elses interpretation anyway.

        When you say in your article that “public criticism of other Christians is clearly established as a normal part of Christian discourse,” I agree with the statement…but not the way you practice it.
        You find it legitimate to openly criticize other Christians who you have no personal connection with, yet I do not see that in the biblical example. I challenge you to find an example where one believer criticizing another did not have a personal connection with his opponent or did not oppose him directly (ie: via a letter, a visit, blog comments, etc.).
        I guess I just wish we would stop the infighting because it distracts us from the mission.

        • Mark

          Out of curiosity, Mark, did you email Dr. Stackhouse privately before posting on his blog, or was the blog post your first move? If you did indeed email him first, did you then take the step of meeting with him with one or two others to further attempt to correct him in his wayward practice of Christian confrontation? If you personally took both of these steps before posting on this blog, then you almost have a case (except that it would take some real exegetical gymnastics to equate Dr. Stackhouse’s broad online readership to “the church”). I think the Matthew 18 principle should apply even in cases in which the correction is aimed at one whose sin is to break the Matthew 18 principle. And modes of rebuke don’t get a lot more public than the internet mode.

          Ah! But one might accuse me of failing to keep the Matthew 18 principle in your case. Fortunately I’m convinced that Dr. Stackhouse’s read of this passage is the correct one.

          As for the “infighting” concern, I think it is more important for the world to see intelligent and thoughtful Christians criticizing the unthoughtful ones than to see a church whose ideological insistence on public unity leads them to turn a blind eye to all manner of ignorance and offensiveness.

          • John Stackhouse

            Thanks, Mark, for replying to Mark–I agree! And I’ll say that Mark Myles’s requirement of a personal connection is just an arbitrary adding of an element to the text. Did Paul have a personal connection with everyone he rebuked, asked Timothy or another church to rebuke, or otherwise castigated? (Answer: No.)

            Avoiding certain kinds of “infighting” amounts to “enabling,” and I don’t see that as a good thing to do. Brother Driscoll has done harm in this bad teaching and will keep doing it on the Net–and that harm will be lessened if another teacher sets things straight. That’s what I’m doing. Surely that’s what a teacher concerned about the flock of Christ should do?

            • E.G.

              The very fact that MD works so hard to get his message far beyond the local church (podcasts, YouTube, Twitter, etc.) means that it is not only correct for people to assess his statements – it is actually our responsibility to do so.

              It’s rather absurd to think that we should refrain from all discussion of viewpoints emanating from various Christian organizations, personalities, or authors except to talk to them in person. If that were the case, we’d have to give virtually all of the major “voices” out there a free pass.

              MD has extended his reach far beyond the church, and into the wider Church. As such, it is up to those of us in the Church to address what he says. Personally, having contacted him in the past about another issue and getting no response at all, I wouldn’t hold my breath on the “personal contact” front.

  22. Mark

    I’m just wondering how he defines “legalist”. My picture of a legalist was not entirely unlike one who would exert church discipline over a family of five in which the mother hopes her $10/hr job will adequately subsidize her husband’s $10/hr income in the goal of keeping her three children clothed and fed. Perhaps Driscoll would condone a situation like this, calling it an extenuating circumstance. But if that’s the case, then he has a very clear responsibility to nuance his message more carefully so as not to spew such pastorally destructive nonsense in the direction of those sincere individuals in his congregation who are trying their best in this economically troubled time. In the real world I find myself in, situations like this are commonplace – common enough that Driscoll’s message is rendered as destructive as it is irrelevant.

    If what he’s really concerned about is careerism amongst his congregants (i.e. a careerism of a narcissistic sort that sees both parents pursuing personal success to the neglect of their children), then he should call it that, and offer some exegetically-responsible insights that might help parents know when, where and how to curb their ambitions for the sake of their children. Otherwise, there are just way too many situations out there for which his preaching has provided no category, and the result is that he has hurt and ostracized a significant percentage of his congregation (whose exodus from Mars Hill he doubtless smiles upon as the purgation of those who refuse to submit to “clear Biblical teaching”).

    If Mars Hill isn’t already made up solely of upper-income patriarchal families, it will be soon; that is, unless Driscoll follows your advice, Dr. Stackhouse, and takes a sabbatical.

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  24. Tiggy

    For a big place, America seems to be a very small pond. So many of you seem incapable of thinking outside of your own cultural box. For instance the proposed difficulty someone might have with Calvinism if they have a problem with Driscoll. Well where I live (England) most people don’t even know what Calvinism is – we just don’t have it. We have plenty of Evangelical churches of all denominations but we don’t have Calvinist theology. And this whole thing about women having to submit to men – basically it doesn’t get a look in. It’s time you all came out of your insular little time-warp. Oh and stop giving attention to that arsehole Driscoll – you’ll just make him worse.

    • John Stackhouse

      Well, Tiggy, you DO have Calvinism there. The whole Presbyterian tradition is Calvinistic. Many Anglicans and Baptists are Calvinistic.

      And as for women submitting to men, what are you looking at over there? The disagreement over female clergy continues to roil the whole C of E, and many evangelicals unhappy about women priests are really digging in about female bishops.

      So perhaps you can back off the English snobbery a bit and do a little more homework domestically before wading into North American controversies.

      • Tricia

        This particular brand of Calvisim is alive and well in the Church of England, specifically in the North West Partnership and The Church Society.

        I don’t doubt their sincere love of scripture but our sad experience has been that to disagree with or even question their narrow interpretation is to be labelled not demonic, but “Liberal”. (The comi-tragic scene of the most proudly conservative man in our congregation coming to grips with finding himself on the other side of the theological fence was something to behold!)

        The last words my rector spoke to me after I explained why I hadn’t been attending church were: “Frankly, considering you are literally one flesh with (your husband), you wouldn’t be welcome to use your gifts in this church anyways.”

        Without any context at all, you can guess that Mark Driscoll is one of his influences.

        Tiggy – It’s not as rare as one might hope.

        Dr Stackhouse – Thank you for this balanced and gracious post.

  25. stephy

    For those who find virtue in Mars Hill, I’d just like to share that I’ve been in group therapy sessions with women who are members of Mars Hill church and they are wracked with anguish about attending therapy without their husband’s approval, because Mars Hill’s membership covenant (which must be renewed every year, but that’s another story) says that its members can only receive therapy from its own lay counselors(who don’t have university qualifications, for whatever that’s worth), and then only with their husbands’ permission. These women say they dislike the therapy they receive from MH. They are also convinced they are sinning in ways the Bible does not define sin, and we keep asking them about that, and they are truly conflicted. I can’t share their personal stories here but would like to say I’m deeply concerned about that place and their reverence for Driscoll, to name just two things.

  26. Sheridan Voysey

    Thanks for the clear and ballanced critique John, and the gracious yet firm tone it was delivered in. A good model for us to follow.

  27. Don

    I think comps need to start repudiating the extremists in their midst and MD is one that needs it badly. He has no business attempting to teach the word of God to others in this area.

  28. T.C. Porter

    I would find it easier to forgive and live with our many differences – and with Driscoll I have many disagreements, primarily that I read Scripture more like a narrative and he reads it like a moral code. The most difficult thing by far however is his forcefulness and what might be labelled as hubris or arrogance. He does not strike me as one willing to enter into dialog. He seems angry to me, as if he might punch me at any moment. If I were one to quote Scripture to make my point I could sight many such verses on humility, meekness and respect. I would also make reference to the fact that we are in a sort of “exile” that requires something other than table-pounding certitude. Unfortunately his squeakiness is getting a lot of attention and in my view distorting Christian witness, which is why I disagree with those who imply we should be silent. He is more than willing to rant against those (in the church) with differing views, and even frame us as “worse than unbelievers.”

  29. brandonbey

    Thank you Mr Stackhouse for such a respectful critique of what is potentially a very harmful message from Pastor Mark.

    It is unfortunate the separation effect that celebrity can have on a Pastor, and that the ability to speak directly to Mark on the issue seems impossible. So once again, thank you for giving us an example of how to be both respectful of the Man while expressing our concerns with regard to their teaching.

    Grace and Peace.

  30. Rob Plante

    Dr. Stackhouse, thanx for your comment on the freaky, scary presentation of the Driscolls.

    (By the way, I saw your afternoon lecture in Nanaimo last saturday and although I don’t agree on several points you made, I was impressed by your presentation and you inspiration and class!)

    But Mark Driscoll is exactly the type of person where atheists like Dawkins and Onfrey are talking about. Not people like you. No charlatans like Driscoll wo act like Jezus instead of following his inspiration. They demand you.
    Driscolls knows exactly how god thinks and act.

    Driscoll he knows it all. Well he don’t.
    To my opinion, when you interpret the bible literally you make a uge mistake.
    As you say, daily life was different 2/3/4000 years ago than now.
    People didn’t move by expensive cars (I think Driscoll ownes a golden cow also don’t you? So that makes him a camel too) but by donkey or goat.
    People those days didn’t own hottubs and didn’t work behind computers but were milking cows and growing beans…stuff like that.
    And on exactly the same level was their way of thinking and their community organised.
    Driscoll talks constantly about statistically proven facts. That’s pure nonsens.
    Wich source did they use? Who did they ask? What did they asked them.
    And when he talks about ” worse than a believer ” , he shows his real face doesn’t he?
    I wonder if he wouldn’t shake my hand in public like some Imams do and demand they’re followers.
    It has to be in Driscolls bible…somewhere…

  31. Matthew Westerberg

    Great post, John.

    I do hope you write further about the feminization of much of North American Christianity. Mark Driscoll has a muddled understanding of many important subjects, but the psychology of a certain large subset of American men is not among them. That he understands very well – at an intuitive, gut level.

    It’s easy for many of your respondents (and many Regent students?) to recognize how weak Driscoll is in the areas where they are strong. But I’m not sensing that they recognize just how strong he is in the areas where they are weak, nor just how important his strengths are. Mark may or may not improve his exegesis of Scripture. There’s not a lot that can be done about that. But critics – who I assume would like his congregation to be hearing a rather different message – can learn to get across better ideas to his target audience IF they get to know the type of man that is attracted to churches like Mars Hill – and why that man is turned off by their church, despite its fantastic exegesis.

  32. Paul D. Adams

    I can think of several of the Driscoll ilk that need a sabbatical!
    Actually, we need a conference on the scale of ETS upcoming in Atlanta so men and women, scholars and pastors, leaders and lay can come together to engage in civil discussions, featuring Millard Erickson, Graham Cole, Wayne Grudem, John Piper, Andreas Kostenbarger, Doug Groothuis, John Stackhouse, …. you get the idea.

  33. Tiggy

    I think we should all stand up against spiritual abuse whether it’s in our own church or not, and given what’s been said on here about the women in therapy, that’s what it is. It sounds like they’re quite brainwashed by MDs way of thinking and his Stepford Wives ideals. This whole idea of someone (a man) being especially anointed by God to run a church is a recipe for abuse because it makes him seem, to the adherents, beyond criticism. It’s particularly easy for religious authority to lead to various forms of abuse – I was subjected to it myself as a teenager within a house church in a highly sexual and physically threatening form, something I’m still having to deal with 20 plus years on. What does controlling people have to do with the gospel?

  34. James

    Thanks for defending my right to stay home and care for my two intelligent, creative and beautiful little girls while my wife sits in your class.

  35. Kasey

    Being a woman but one who does not go to Mars Hill, I have used Marks exegesis on 1 Timothy 2:11-13 for men to listen to rather than anything I might teach if they are not going to listen to a woman in the first place. His sermons on 1 Timothy can be found on his website. Along with Quinn McGinnis, I have to say Pastor Mark supports women doing anything in the church with exception of being an elder or a pastor. Because he is right out there it is easy to take potshots at him and the ministry of his church. My husband is a CMA pastor and I know how easy it is for the body of Christ to tear into it’s own every Sunday for lunch. Satan is an accuser of the brethren, the rest of us should not be. You correctly have dealt with his exegesis of 1 Timothy 5:8 is there a need to go beyond that?

    • John Stackhouse

      This isn’t about taking potshots. It isn’t about tearing into a fellow Christian. It certainly isn’t about acting like Satan. These are terrible insults: far worse than anything I say about Brother Mark. How can you say such things?

      What I am doing is pointing out error in a spirit of teaching the church: That’s what I am called to do, among other aspects of a teaching ministry. So let’s keep the language charitable and accurate, shall we, speaking the truth in love?

      • stephy

        Beautifully said, Mr. Stackhouse – you are indeed doing what you are called to do.

      • Spencer Capier

        I know about “Godwin’s Law”, but perhaps there could be a “Stackhouse Principle?”

        To wit: “As an online Christian discussion grows longer, the probability of the OP being compared to Satan approaches 1.”

  36. buddyglass

    To put a twist on Driscoll’s take on the matter…

    I agree that men should be working hard to ensure the financial well-being of their families.

    Sometimes (albeit rarely) “ensuring the financial well-being” means taking care of the house & kids. For instance if the wife’s earning potential is that much higher, there are kids, and there are no acceptable childcare options.

    At the same time…I have to admit…as a man, I would have a really, really hard time being a stay-at-home dad. It’s embarrassing to admit to being so “typical”, but I guess I do feel somewhat “validated” by the fact that I have a job and can earn money.

  37. Lou

    There is nothing wrong with brother Driscoll’s exegesis. Brother Stackhouse conflates some of Driscoll’s arguments. Here are some problems with Brother Stackhouse’s criticisms.

    The Admonititon is Against Fathers, not Mothers:

    Remember, Brother Driscoll’s gripe is with “stay at home dads,” not “moms who are successful at both caregiving and working.” Brother Stackhouse says in previous cultures both genders worked, and in today’s lower class families both genders are forced to work. How is that a refutation of Brother Driscoll’s claim that regardless of culture, fathers ought to provide for the family? Good for those 19th century fathers and today’s lower class working fathers. Good for those mothers too. I see that Brother Stackhouse brought that up as a refutation of Brother Driscoll’s proposal of an ideal family where the mother remains a homemaker, but that is a proposal which Brother Driscoll makes from statistics, not exegesis. More on this below.

    Use of 1 Timothy 5:8:

    The verse places a postive obligation on everyone to provide for his or her house. “Everyone” includes men. The fact that the obligation is on everyone does not negate that the obligation is on men. So if a father is not providing for his family, is it inappropriate to direct him to a verse that places the obligation on everyone, including fathers? No. Brother Driscoll never says the verse does not apply to women. Again, the proposal for an ideal split/role family is made by an appeal to statistics. More on this below.

    House Includes Wife:

    The context of 1 Timothy 5:8 concerns widows. But the word chosen by Paul in 5:8 is “house.” This means family. Although the context specifically pertains to the treatment of widows, in support of making an admonition regarding that treatment Paul cites the general principle that a person ought to care for his/her FAMILY. Since Brother Discroll cites the general principle, although it is used as support in Paul’s contextual argument, the exegesis is not made out of context.

    Driscoll Does Not Claim to Make a Pure Exegetical Argument:

    In the video I heard Brother Driscoll refer to statistics. The validity of these statistics is up for debate. But if Brother Driscoll forms part of his argument based on statistics, that children fare better under the care of mothers, it is unfair to accuse him of reaching a conclusion through improper hermeneutics. The only exegetical conclusion he makes is that men ought to provide. The basis for church discipline is lazy men. Brother Driscoll does not claim to undergo church discipline upon mothers who feel that they can work.

    Brother Driscoll certainly gives his own opinions. And anyone may disagree. However, his opinions are formed from a reasonable interpretation of Scripture, which places obligations on men to provide. Brother Driscoll says that he is not legalistic about whether a man is truly providing or not. I could hardly see him disciplining a man who is going to school temporarily while his wife is working.

    All this I say as someone who totally disagrees with Brother Driscoll’s treatment of the Song of Solomon.

    • John Stackhouse

      Thanks, Brother Lou, for a sensible, thoughtful reply.

      I watched the video one more time in your honour (!), and came away of the same mind. Without reiterating all of the arguments in my post, here are a few thoughts in response.

      The Driscolls’ remarks make sense, it seems to me, only according to the paradigm of “man works outside the home, woman works inside the home.” The Driscolls explicitly denounce daycare: so much for both parents working. They denounce the wife working outside the home and the husband not doing so, except for reasons of physical inability: so much for the various scenarios I suggest in my post in which the husband and wife might decide that, at least for a season of life, the wife will be the primary or sole breadwinner.

      The Biblical passage in question cannot be legitimately understood as underwriting that particular paradigm. But that is the only paradigm that makes full sense of all that the Driscolls say.

      Of course I agree with you and with them that a man must make sure his family is provided for because Paul says that obligation falls on everyone, male or female. But let us underscore, as you note, that there is no indication in the Greek text of “a man” having to do this–in implicit contradiction to what the Driscolls say. The responsibility falls on everyone and anyone, male or female.

      So sure, if a man is a layabout, unwilling to work on behalf of his family or even earn his own living, he is condemned (and not just here, but also in I Thessalonians 5)–just as some widows are condemned here for sponging off the charity of the church.

      But all of this has only a tangential relationship to the gender-focused thrust of the Driscolls’ comments. That’s my point: There is no gender-directed language in the text nor in its implications. And I think my point therefore still stands.

  38. Kasey

    Dear Dr. Stackhouse forgive me, I wasn’t saying this about you but some of the responses to your article and to the attitude we can all have in the spirit of critiquing one another. What you said articulately about the statement on stay at home fathers was the point of your writing and not further. I simplified my response too much causing you grief. I apologize that you seemed to take the brunt of my statement and I would be remiss not to admit I was wrong. By being in the position as a leader in the Church (whether an elder or professor) as you are and many writing will be it is way to easy for the Christian community to take down those who stand up in front for reasons that are not moral issues. I grieve when what is said in the community of believers goes past being specific on what has been stated and seems to go after the person himself. Again, I realize that is what you thought I was doing to you personally and I seek your forgiveness as I declare to others this is not how I view you or what you said. I am hoping Pastor Driscoll does read your blog while all of us in humility remember he is an elder and pray for areas that we deem inaccurate or go to him personally speaking truth in love as you exhorted me to do. May we all as the brethren seek the mind of Christ together and if there are accusation against another go to them directly.

    • John Stackhouse

      Thanks, Sister Kasey, for this sweet reply. No harm done, and I understand and sympathize with your feelings!

      Partly because I do understand and sympathize, I have now posted a rationale for public criticism in my “Pages” section. I hope it will be helpful to you.

      But again, thanks for demonstrating such a Christian spirit!

  39. stephy

    Many of us have tried to go to Driscoll directly with no acknowledgment from him. This part of their website is so interesting to me, they say if you’re a member of the media MHC’s media coordinator is happy to help you, but if you need a personal appointment Mark can’t do it.

    • Kate

      That in and of itself is the best argument against a mega church that I can think of. Personal appointments are part of a pastors job. If the parish is too big for him to be able to do it, that’s a problem.

  40. Ryan

    “People who find this sort of interpretation to be sexist, classist, and just plain uninformed will go elsewhere for competent Biblical preaching.”

    Or allow the gravity of Driscoll’s rampant misogyny to sink in and abandon the Christian faith entirely.

  41. Jessica Kuras Lipps

    Thank you for responding to this unprincipled teaching that perpetuates an unsound social construct within the Christian church. An irony indeed since the Christian faith is about freedom from in order to have freedom to be…

  42. Don Johnson

    I appreciate Driscoll reaching out to outcasts with the gospel, I do not think he is trustworthy with gender verses.

  43. Rob Plante

    I would like to respond on 46 Lou.

    Personally I think it’s grotesque to take rules written in the bible written by humans 2000 years literally ,like Driscoll does,instead of using them as a guide-line in your personal life.
    It,s manipulative, because you can you use whenever you need them. It’s intimidating, because you can use whatever you like and opportunistic.
    What sense does it make to use 1 Timothy 5:8 as the written truth and threat with Hell and for instance not Numeri 25 or 15?
    Well actually muslims flew into the Twin towers for the same reason, demanding from God as Numeri 25. And Lou,would you really stone your neighbour to death when he would cut the branches of his tree on sunday as Numeri 15 demands?
    To me,it’s very dangerous and respectless what Driscoll does. Both for women and man.
    And I feel sorry for the vulnerable sheep in his church.

  44. Joel

    Just a point that I have not seen anyone address. The part of the argument that addresses women staying at home is based on Titus 2. While Mark’s wife is the one that specifically mentions that passage, Marks’s follow up is clearly given with that passage in mind, so to say that the “one and only text” used to support their argument is 1 Timothy 5:8 is completely inaccurate. There is much of Driscoll’s theology with which I disagree, but to dismiss this argument as being based on a solitary verse when in fact it is primarily based on another chapter altogether does seem rather unfair.

    • John Stackhouse

      Yes, I’ve wondered about whether to comment on Mrs. Driscoll’s passing reference to Titus 2. Ben Witherington III does a powerful job demolishing their use of it, as Andy Rowell notes (#39). And the focus of their remarks is against stay-at-home dads, not so much pro stay-at-home moms. But your point is still valid inasmuch as they do refer to that one other verse.

      Now that I’ve made that admission, however, nothing else has changed, has it? They interpret that verse making the same sort of mistakes I note and with the same baleful effect. So I can’t see this offering you much satisfaction, Brother Joel…

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  46. Dave

    After listening to this clip it’s hard to believe Mr. Driscoll has read the whole Book, or any whole book, much less that he has a degree. He certainly has not read the passage cited by his lovely wife. And if he has, then he is proof that a man ought not to be allowed to teach or exercise authority over a woman. That man being himself.

  47. katz

    Driscoll has made this same exegesis before on that verse before, years ago, and I found it full of holes then, too.

    One point you didn’t mention: I’m no Hellenist, but in Latin, the masculine is used with indefinite pronouns referring to a mixed-gender group, so you would say “everyone and his family” even if you were referring to both men and women (or even if you were referring to a large group of women and one man).

    I’d be very surprised if this wasn’t true in Greek as well. In that case, I Tim. 5:8 shouldn’t be translated with “he” at all. Aside from the sloppy grammar, something like the TNIV is more accurate: “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

    But we couldn’t tell that to Mark Driscoll. He hates gender-neutral translations.

  48. ZooDad

    I’m hungry to hang out with, and be influenced by, people who take God very seriously…and themselves not so much. I’m scared by those who begin to take themselves so seriously that, in the process, they put themselves in God’s place: “Thus sayeth Mark Driscoll….” The latter are the wellspring of cults.

  49. Kasey

    Thank you. I read “…a rationale for public criticism in my “Pages” section. I hope it will be helpful to you” and yes it was excellent! I concur. Years ago when I first became aware of the struggle with how does one say to others what is necessary without going too far (since I am always prone to go too far) I came across Paul’s statement to Timothy about Alexander the Coppersmith, who “…did me much harm.” Succinct! But when he dealt with the “rebellious…” in Crete (Titus) he said they were “teaching things they should not teach of the sake of sordid gain… reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith.” That is the dealing with the possibility of a brother who is wrong and needs correction and then in chapter 3:10 he says: “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.” In the church we will all struggle until the return of Christ with the “whys” of dissention and rebellion within the community. I cannot see into the heart (although ones “deeds” do seem to provide a window into it) of another so I must assume they need correction before it becomes obvious they simply do not follow the way of truth. That is the gift you provide the church in a larger context than the local one through correction and teaching of the truth of the Word in love. Thank you again for faithfulness and accuracy.

  50. Carolyn Custis James

    As a female reader, I would like to thank Stephen and add my support for his objection to the use of the term “feminization.” As a reader who benefits from your writings, I appreciate the qualifier in your blog post that whatever is being identified as a problem is unhelpful to both men and women. But the language used to name the problem does convey the message that the problem has to do with women. “Feminization” is a pejorative term that points (whether intentionally or not) to women as the problem. Women hear disdain in this language.

    Anemic theology, vacuous sermons, and sentimental lyrics aren’t feminine and (as you rightly point out) are problematic for women too. But then neither are gentleness, kindness, love, etc., feminine traits, but are rather attributes of Jesus that redefine what it means to be masculine and feminine and should be present in large doses among all who follow Jesus and who listen to Paul. These attributes should flavor our corporate gatherings.

    Driscoll may have identified a real problem (I happen to think he has), but I would plead for different language and also for a different diagnosis and solution than he proposes. The masculinization of church is not a solution but a new problem, another distortion, and a frightening prospect for many.

    • Rob Plante

      You’re right.
      But it’s not only a church/religious problem because the masculinization in international society is increasing rapidly. In business, sports, politics, everywere!
      And to my opinion it’s very, very strange that some religious countries already celebrated women in charge like Turkey, Pakistan, Israel, India for instance….
      And ‘liberal’ countries like the US, France, Denmark, Norway, Canada, The Netherlands or Switserland did not.

      • Carolyn Custis James

        Doesn’t this open the door for Christians to send a different message to the world about what it means to be male and female, how we value and need one another, and how we serve God together in every venue? And isn’t this what we’re supposed to be doing? Viewing male and female in terms of a swinging pendulum of power and influence misses the point of what Jesus and Paul are trying to teach us.

        Here’s a bit of food for thought: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2QqPJHVbfc

        • John Stackhouse

          Sister Carolyn, you know I’m not calling for the pendulum to swing back. I’m wanting to move forward to better definitions of personhood, but also of womanhood and manhood, femininity and masculinity, in our churches and in our homes first and also in society at large.

          Still, I said I’d put forward something concrete down the road, and I will–and better not give in to the temptation to offer something half-baked now!

          • Rob Plante


            You made a great point with your article.
            It’s all about a great step forward. It needs time to ‘show’ people in the world the womenleadership in politics or even households can be very inspiring and sends a message of hope.
            The message that your not more man when your just working, trying to feed your family, but also contributing in ‘softer’ right brain necessities like;helping your daughter choosing her new ballet costume or a cook a nice healthy and culinair italian dinner or for instance spent evenings talking with your best friend who wants to come out he’s gay. Wich is not written anywhere in any religious script whatsoever.
            It’s shows a tremendous amount of masculinity.
            Don’t you?

          • Carolyn Custis James

            Yes, I do know and look forward to what you will be saying in a future post. My reference to the pendulum referred to Driscoll’s thinking. I’m sorry I didn’t make that clear. But I do hope the word “feminization” can be discarded.

  51. Tyler

    I can’t disagree with having issues with what Mark said. I do see a problem in calling for his sabbatical over an answer during a q/a forum. It would be one thing if the main point of his message were the point made in the video, but this is flying by the seat of your pants. While it provides the listener with quick answers to tough questions, it puts the pastor in a tough spot. I think that plays into the radical answer he gives.

    If I had a dime for every time someone referred to Mark and this video…well you get what I’m saying. Is this the only video we have of him?

    • John Stackhouse

      Good questions, Brother Tyler. The reason I, at least, am criticizing this 6-minute video is that it demonstrates some basic exegetical problems in a very short space–problems that someone either has or doesn’t have, whether in a 6-minute, informal (although it isn’t, right? This is a pastor, on a stage, taking questions from an audience of people who want pastorally authoritative answers) answer or a 60-minute lecture.

      What I mean is that Brother Mark’s exegetical, theological, and ethical HABITS are on display here, precisely because he is reacting immediately to this question (although he does indicate in the video that he has dealt with this very question before). And those habits are what I am calling him on.

      Put differently, someone who had better habits would simply never have responded the way he did, no matter how informal or distracted or tired he or she might be. When you’re thinking about the Bible and its implications, you think a certain way, and this is the way Brother Mark evidently thinks.

      • katz

        He has indeed made the exact same exegesis on that verse before…I think during SoS but I’m not sure.

        Anyhow, calling for church discipline is not casual or off-the-cuff. If he’s calling for discipline of other people, it’s just responding in kind if we call for his discipline.

    • John Stackhouse

      Me, neither. That’s why I didn’t say it. What we’re talking about is the mode in which Christianity is practiced in recent North American evangelicalism.

      (Looks like I better write something more substantial soon, given the way these comments keep coming!)

      • robert plante

        You’re right mr. Stackhouse,

        I really think that it’s time to start an inspiring debate indeed and enlight the situation in our World when it comes to controversies and polarisation between religions and between religions and no religions.
        As I mentioned earlier to other people, the way you speak about your faith ‘feels’, in a way, just the same as Richard Dawkins about his atheism.
        You two got way more intellectual an human simularities than you have with a one dimensional pastor like Driscoll.
        He’s more a Pat Robertson type.
        Sometimes it seems to me that they read a totally different script.
        What do you think?

  52. Yuriy S

    I think Mark was calling out my generation of Seattleites, boys with a wedding ring that are irresponsible, lazy, do not provide for their spouse but play video games all day. And sadly, very often, this IS the case.

  53. Sarah Golsby-Smith

    Dear John,

    I read your post before I saw the video. I’m a bit horrified by the clip; traumatised, even! What I find the most difficult in these kinds of debates is bothering to connect and converse about these issues with someone who makes these kinds of claims about me, my husband and my children. It’s really difficult to respond with love and with intelligence; my gut response is to write them off as idiots and get angry – since he clearly has not met my gorgeous, articulate, beautiful three year old who spends 2 days in daycare every week (God forbid). Or met my caring, funny, slightly disorganised husband who provides first rate care for them, equal in responsibility for the children that were entrusted to us both. Or met me, whose love for my work in no way deteriorates my love for my two children. Sigh.

    What I think you’ve done here is to inspire me to engage in these debates in ways that love those we get impatient with, who use our shared Scripture like this, and then post it on Youtube. Thank you John for inspiring me to respond to the world with grace, forgiveness and intellectual rigour.


  54. Sarah Golsby-Smith

    And while I’m thinking some more on this: Driscoll says he doesn’t know what his children would be like if he looked after them (and I didn’t find this funny). I know what my children would be like if their Daddy were home instead of me: they’d be a little more unkempt, that’s true. They would be wearing mismatched clothes, that’s true. They might have porridge for lunch, also true. They would know all the names of the homeless people in our area, since my husband knows them better than me. They’d be articulate, just like their Daddy, they’d probably go swimming a bit more, because he likes swimming more than me, and they’d develop an abiding, enduring love for Creation and for their Creator. Just like their Daddy.


    • Matt


      I am with you. Mark and his wife’s exegesis on this matter is very troubling indeed. When Mark’s wife said that she wouldn’t know what the children would be like if Mark took care of them I found this shocking! I couldn’t believe that Mark just laughed. I mean first of all what does that say about what she thinks about Mark. Honestly I would be deeply hurt if my wife who loves me says that she wonders what it would be like if I took care of the children which I love deeply. I think it is cutting and insulting to say the least.

      I am not even getting into the exegesis of the passages. Dr. Stackhouse has done an amazing job doing that.

  55. Brother TT

    I think we should stop pretending that this disagreement is really about proper biblical exegesis and we should call it what it really is. This is purely a cultural issue about whether or not men and women are equal. It’s the same old hot button issues that we keep arguing over and we have the audacity as I believe both Stackhouse and Driscoll have done in this case to use the bible to support our own cultural bias. I don’t think that the frustration surrounding this particular debate has anything to do with people’s outrage that the Bible has been misinterpreted. It would do us well if we would be more outraged by that. What people are really outraged about is the fear that someone has dared to say something that is not PC. (politically correct)

    I think the thing that we miss in all of this is not whether or not a woman is equal to a man or whether or not she can work outside of the home but what is best for the children. Once a couple decides to have children that becomes what is more important than anything else. Studies have proven over and over again that children, especially infants need the nurturing, constant care of their Mother in whom they formed a special bond with even before birth. This does not mean that women cannot get a part time job outside of the home and tag team a few nights a week with the husband or that she cannot find a way in our highly digitized world to run a successful career out of the home. But as far as not being there for the majority of the time for at least young preschool aged children is just not beneficial for the child.

    Mr. Stackhouse makes an argument that in earlier centuries fathers and mothers both worked from the home together on family farms. Well this argument falls in on itself because the obvious fact is that the mother was home as was the father.

    Mr. Driscoll has a tendency to make every argument when it comes to these types of issues all about masculinity and how the man is not man enough if he doesn’t do and a long list of very macho things usually follow. He’s missed the point in this issue. It’s not about what the women or the man wants once children arrive on the scene it’s what’s best for those little helpless dependable creatures that rely on us for not only care but the right kind of care.

    Women are just simply better at really nurturing and taking care of children because God made them that way. We must remember the context of Paul’s letters to Timothy. These are pastoral letters and the issues that Paul discusses must be interpreted in the light of Pastoral and church concerns. This chapter is indeed talking about widows but the main concern here is what widows the church should reach out to and which ones they do not need to feel obligated to assist. Vs. 3 tells us that we are to honor widows but then vs. 4 gives the church some qualifications as to which ones should be assisted financially. It says that if a widow has children or grandchildren that they are first obligated to “repay” their parents. meaning they should take care of them in their old age. Then in vs. 5 Paul describes the widows that the church should step in and assist financially and those are ones that are truly alone, have no family and are pios in their lifestyle. “They continue in prayers and supplications night and day.” The widow who is “asleep while she lives.” is a non Christian widow. Vs. 6. This is reference to Spiritual death (Eph 2:1) Paul is making a contrast here that if a widow is spending her time and money in pleasures from the world then it is not a great idea for the church to support her Financially. We see this pattern of reaching out to believing widows established first in acts chapter 6. It was an ongoing concern in many of the ancient churches and is topic that is discussed throughout the New Testament. Now that we have that background understanding we can begin to understand what vs. 8 is talking about. Within the context of church procedures concerning widows and vs. 4 children taking care of their elderly parents we see that this vs. is developing a principle that if “anyone” not just men, but anyone, meaning the church who needs to take care of their own and family members who need to take care of their own within their immediate families does not do this they are worse than unbelievers. Not meaning that they will to go to hell or that they were never really saved but simply that the unbelievers do this in practice better than the believers do.

    There is no room here to turn this verse into support that men must work and women must stay home. There probably isn’t anywhere in the bible where God gives us a definite opinion on either side. let’s stop doing violence to the scriptures in order to prove our cultural opinions. God gives us principles and asks us to act maturely and intelligently with the brain that he gave us. As I said before. Families need to do what is best for the members which this chapter does indicate. It’s about what is best for the children.

    • Steven Kippel

      Brother TT,

      The studies have actually shown that the sex or gender of the care provider for a child has no relevance. What is important is that there is a care provider to which the child can attach to complete the attachment cycle (need felt, need voiced, need met).

      • John Stackhouse

        Brother TT, I’ll ask you to not insult people by presuming to know what they are “really” concerned about, as if you can read minds, which you can’t, and as if people’s arguments can be waved aside with an “ad hominem” remark about their putatively true motives.

        I’ll also ask you not to waste space and time by going through an exegetical exercise that adds nothing significant to what is already posted by myself and others.

        And let’s not refer to mere “studies,” as Brother Mark refers to “statistics” in the video clip, without citing actual studies or statistics. It’s very poor argumentation and another waste of time.

        I welcome vigorous discussion, including disagreement, but let’s argue well, please.

      • brother TT

        A nursing infant has a very gender specif need, wouldn’t you say?

  56. brother TT

    Mr. Stackhouse, I’ll admit that I may have spoken out of anger and a bit foolishly to presume what people think. And I’ll also admit that i didn’t provide statistical data for my comments and won’t be doing so because i don’t have time to argue over these issues all day long.

    The one thing I’ll challenge you with is your comment about my exegesis. If you are criticizing people like Mark Driscoll for not doing correct biblical exegesis then it would seem to me like you would not criticize someone who has endeavored to do a correct biblical analysis. Maybe you are the only one allowed to do that on your blogspot.

    In case you hadn’t noticed I wasn’t agreeing with Driscoll.

    • robert plante

      There is no such thing as biblical correct exegesis. People are perfectly able to make interpretations and ad their conclusions.
      I would like to challenge you with explaining ‘everything’ wich is written in the old testament. (To my opinion men like Copernicus, Da Vinci, Galileo and Darwin came way closer than every Pope did for instance).
      And please explain the thousands of differences between the four books in the new testament please.
      You simply can’t, Paul couldn’t, so don’t pretend your better than Luke or the other eleven.

      • John Stackhouse

        Brother Robert, perhaps asking someone to explain everything in the Old Testament isn’t helpful on a blog. (I don’t have the capacity from my service provider to let someone do that and post it. ;))

        Let’s focus on particular items that people can actually discuss, please!

        • robert plante

          Dear Mr. Stackhouse,

          Off course, your right.
          I’m glad you,ve noticed my little sarcastic approach.
          I’m just responding to people who use the ‘written word’ of the Bible as a 100% guideline for other peoples lifes while I personally think the metaphorical and symbolic power of the Bible is way more interesting and easing more pain.
          A famous Dutch soccer coach, Leo Beenhakker, always replies to journalists who ask him the truth behind the articles in news papers and magazines.
          “Oh yeah, it’s written down and printed so it’s true!”

  57. Ellen

    I have found this debate fascinating. Not least because so few women have engaged in it. I wonder why? Are we all out working to enable you men to chat & comment on the Internet? I was also interested in the childcare arrangements that had been put in place so the filming of this (& many other co-hosted videos) could be made. I wonder where the flipflop wearing Driscoll children were during the making of the film? The truth is that we all rely on others to care for our children on occasion. It is hard to take teaching like this seriously when not only does it lack thorough theological thought but also is transparently hypocritical from a practical point of view. Preaching that lacks practical integrity just looks foolish & it is far from being useful for the church.
    I wonder if the whole family might also benefit from some time out together. Enjoying each others company & gifts & just chilling out.

  58. Carolyn Custis James

    What is often overlooked when people such as Driscoll make absolute rules (and call them ‘biblical’) about who stays home, who cares for the children, and who goes to work is that this discussion lacks relevance for the rest of the world. It isn’t even relevant in the real world locally, as some of these comments reveal. Biblical rules transcend cultures and eras. Driscoll’s statements don’t pass that test. They only work where a man can support his family alone and he has a wife who stays at home.

    But husbands loose their jobs. They become incapacitated. Sometimes they leave, or die, or for other reasons aren’t able to lead and provide. And God gifts and calls wives to serve him in a lot of different ways, including working alongside their husbands to deal with whatever situations, callings, and opportunities God presents.

    Driscoll and others are, dare I say, conducting a prosperity discussion. Move this discussion into the global arena, into poverty and oppression, into the real world where we live, and it’s a sure thing both the questions and the answers–based on Scripture–will be different.

    • Steven Kippel

      In a sermon linked to in one of the comments, Driscoll hits up this passage of scripture more in depth and actually says “that means get a life insurance policy.”

      Yep, that’s what Paul meant when he wrote to Timothy in 66 c.e. Life insurance.

      My wife told me she was listening to Christian radio and a widow called into a financial program asking about how to get by, and the host basically said, “I’m sorry your husband failed in his Christian duty to provide a life insurance policy.” Yep, it’s a Christian duty. Never mind this guy kicked her husband while he was dead.

  59. katz

    Women are just simply better at really nurturing and taking care of children because God made them that way.

    Yes, and every woman is more nurturing than every man, and this is such a natural, intrinsic trait that we need rules to enforce it.

    Maybe you are the only one allowed to do that on your blogspot.

    We’re on WordPress, actually, but don’t worry. Women are just naturally better with technology than men.

  60. Tom C

    the video is of a Q+A? This is not a sermon – I don’t think this reflects Driscoll’s homiletical/preaching approach – his whole approach is to be radical in the world (like jesus but NOT Jesus).

    We can demonise a man, his church, and its effects. But we cannot lose sight of Christ.

    Driscoll has given us some good things – and some bad things.

    Thanks to Dr Stackhouse for the gracious critique – why don’t we all pray that Driscoll learns from his mistakes, that we learn from God (maybe even through MD).

    Hope that made some sense!


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