"They are sinning through questioning"

"They are sinning through questioning"

mark_driscoll on Women in Ministry blog by Cheryl Schatz

The issue of women in ministry allows us to the opportunity to ask questions about the hard passages of scripture and to work through these passages to discover God’s intended meaning through the inspired context.  But in many quarters, questioning is a “sin” that will get a reprimand from a strong authoritarian leader.  Is it really a sin to ask questions?  The New York Times has produced an article by Molly Worthen called Who Would Jesus Smack Down? In a surprising view of “the cussing pastor”, Mark Driscoll is not only against women pastors and what is called the feminization of the church, but he also refuses to tolerate any opposition to his views.  In The New York Times article Molly Worthen writes:

Nowhere is the connection between Driscoll’s hypermasculinity and his Calvinist theology clearer than in his refusal to tolerate opposition at Mars Hill. The Reformed tradition’s resistance to compromise and emphasis on the purity of the worshipping community has always contained the seeds of authoritarianism: John Calvin had heretics burned at the stake and made a man who casually criticized him at a dinner party march through the streets of Geneva, kneeling at every intersection to beg forgiveness. Mars Hill is not 16th-century Geneva, but Driscoll has little patience for dissent. In 2007, two elders protested a plan to reorganize the church that, according to critics, consolidated power in the hands of Driscoll and his closest aides. Driscoll told the congregation that he asked advice on how to handle stubborn subordinates from a “mixed martial artist and Ultimate Fighter, good guy” who attends Mars Hill. “His answer was brilliant,” Driscoll reported. “He said, ‘I break their nose.’ ” When one of the renegade elders refused to repent, the church leadership ordered members to shun him. One member complained on an online message board and instantly found his membership privileges suspended. “They are sinning through questioning,” Driscoll preached. John Calvin couldn’t have said it better himself.

Sinning through questioning – this attitude of leadership has become an epidemic in the hypermasculinity movement.  See Cynthia Kunsman’s articles on surviving the Sheperding Movement and All about Authority: the Popularity of Submission Doctrine

Driscoll is not an “isolated eccentric”, Worthen writes, but is a new breed of “aggressive, mission-minded Calvinism that really believes Calvinism is a transcript of the Gospel”.  Not only are those who do not hold to Calvinism seen as rejecting the true gospel, but those who are not complementarian are also seen as holding to a belief that rejects the true “complementarian” gospel which keeps women in their “proper” place.

Like many New Calvinists, Driscoll advocates traditional gender roles, called “complementarianism” in theological parlance.

How do most members deal with the issue of “sinning through questioning”?  Worthen writes:

Most members, however, didn’t join Mars Hill in order to ask questions.

Asking questions is not something that should be stifled.  Wade Burleson has a post on the same article here titled The Problem of Authoritarianism in the Conservative Pulpits of America and Wade writes:

The Bible tells us that true leadership is found through men who are courageous enough to be questioned. Jesus said that real leaders are servants, not masters. The incredible notion that a member of a church should be shunned, persecuted or disciplined for simply asking questions of the pastor has more in common than the cultic practices of Jim Jones than the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Let me be clear. Those kind of pastors – pastors that advocate an authoritianism inherent in the pulpit, that stifle any and all dissent from the members of their congregations, that humiliate and denigrate the members who for the sake of conscience ask questions – could very well be considered great expositors of the Word of God and doctrinally orthodox. Yet those pastors display a character that is the antithesis of the character of Christ, an ironhandedness that is the opposite of genuine grace, and a disposition that should cause their congregations to realize that their pastors are but one step away from falling over the precipice of moral failure in terms of their church ministries or personal lives.

The problem in conservative pulpits of America is not a denial of the Word of God, the problem in conservative pulpits of America is the preacher acts as if his words are the Word of God.

Wade Burleson has been somewhat of a maverick himself advocating the inclusion of women’s gifts in the church and while a Calvinist himself, he does not hold to either authoritarian leadership or the view that makes the one asking questions to be a person that should be stifled or feared.

One of the commenters on Wade’s blog wrote:

Anyway, accurate or not, here’s something that any pastor can count on:
1 Peter 5:1-3, in pieces [NASB]:”Therefore I exhort the elders among you…shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion…nor yet as lording it over those alloted to your charge but proving to be examples to the flock.” Guess what pastors? You have no right to tell a member to leave just because you don’t get along. God has alloted them to YOU. You have to suck it up and be a good example. And you better get along with fellow elders, too.

Then Titus 1:7: “For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fornd of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled.” Emphasis is mine. NO, you can’t break his nose. You’re sinning against the flock, not just the one. No, you can’t do something just because you think it’s a good idea, especially if other elders think it’s not…that’s what self-willed people do. And you are a steward, not an owner. You protect and keep, not divide and conquer.

The prophet Jeremiah makes it clear that the shepherds are not to divide the sheep:

Jeremiah 23:1  “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!” declares the LORD.

It is time that we think seriously about these issues because some are working hard to divide the flock and are stopping fellow Christians from asking tough questions.  One may not believe in women in ministry, but we are still brothers and sisters in Christ.  Let’s be willing to speak up without fear, yet with gentleness and meekness if perhaps God may grant them repentance and the divisions and separations may cease.

32 thoughts on “"They are sinning through questioning"

  1. The really scary part is that many young men see Mark Driscoll as a hero, a kind of super Christian doing everything the right way.  There are many young pastors who hold him up as a type of mentor and who will be following in his steps.  When people add to the gospel and the destructive way they deal with the sheep may very well destroy their ministry and further tarnish the image of Christianity.  So many pastors, instead of serving the sheep, are pushing a “my way or the highway” approach to shepherding.  Everywhere on the internet we read of churches that are being hurt and destroyed and sheep that are being battered and abused.  This makes me very sad.

  2. The article said he has people come to Christ that would not normally go to church, and for that I am thankful.

  3. God is able to use many unusual things to bring about a person’s salvation.  This does not condone an abusive tactic used by the church or pastor.  I heard one of Mark Driscoll’s messages that was a very powerful presentation of the gospel.  It isn’t the gospel that is the problem but what he adds to the gospel and the way he ministers that will hurt his ministry and eventually the name of Christ.  There is much advice and correction in scripture on why the way of the Master is much better than having a super pastor who uses crude language and a “my way or the highway” approach.  Yet God is still able to take the gospel preached and bring a soul to Christ.  My concern is how that new convert is discipled so that they do not emulate the abusive behavior.

  4. As someone astutely put it, these ego maniacs have forgotten that “the rocks would cry out” if people failed in what God has decreed to accomplish. His will does not depend upon us, but many teachers today seem to brag about how many people would be in hell were it not for them and their “ministry”.

    And I agree, both a “gospel lite” and a “gospel plus” are not saving anyone. They are like the Pharisees that Jesus lambasted with things like, “You cross land and sea to win a single convert, then make them twice as much a child of hell as you are!”

    If these people were preaching a true, accurate, unmolested gospel, we could with Paul rejoice that the truth is getting out.

  5. I can’t for the life of me figure out why people would want to put themselves under such horrific bondage.

    Is it a herding instinct?  A lemmings over the cliff thing?  Throngs in rapt beatific vision at Nuremberg over every pronouncement of the Fuhrer? (1933-1938)

    Heck, somebody could do a whole master’s thesis on it.

  6. I can only guess it’s a hardening of hearts, a preparation for the harvest. God is exposing the hidden sins of the leaders. Yet even now we see that people prefer to hide their heads in the sand and refuse to think for themselves. It’s “the emperor’s new clothes” again, Orwell’s groupthink, and the sheeple have been groomed and indoctrinated in it for generations. I honestly believe that just as some people choose daily to strive toward the goal, others choose daily to silence their minds and turn themselves into doormats because it seems so lowly and humble. But in fact it’s just cowardice.

  7. There was another comment on Wade’s blog that I thought made a very important point. The commenter said something to the effect of whether God is building the church or man. One thing we need to realize is that man CAN build large churches that have very little to do with Him.  

    A wolf can have what looks to be good doctrine.

    My friend, Cindy K, shared this with us a while back and it is worth repeating here:
    Dr. Paul Martin on Doctrine/Behavior
    Dr. Martin also included some interesting information about what the Bible has to say about false teachers and wolves in sheep’s clothing.

    Of the 210 verses that refer to false prophets, priests, elders and Pharisees, here is a summary of their content:

    99 verses (47%) concern Behavior
    66 verses (31%) concern Fruit
    24 verses (13%) concern Motives
    21 verses (10%) concern Doctrine

    It is interesting that most Christians who deal with apologetics, false teachers and Bible-based cults are most concerned with doctrine only. When discussing the patriarchy movement on SharperIron.com and ibelieve.com earlier last year, I was told by many that it was not appropriate to discuss much of anything save these folks’ misuse of Scripture. But doctrine represents only a small portion of what Bible speaks about concerning false teachers, essentially only 23% of what the Bible points out as problematic.
    According to the Scriptures, we should be very concerned with both the behaviors and the fruit of spiritual leadership in the church and in parachurch organizations. This is not gossip or mean-spirited criticism but what Scripture actually teaches us to observe.
    Dr. Paul Martin (an evangelical Christian) is CEO and Founder of the
    Wellspring Retreat & Resource Center

  8.  It isn’t the gospel that is the problem but what he adds to the gospel and the way he ministers that will hurt his ministry and eventually the name of Christ. 

    I think this has already happened because the topic is always ‘Driscoll’, what he does or says. He is the focus and the draw. That scares me more about him than anything. It is part of the whole celebrity Christian thing we have in this country. Cult of personality.

  9. The Bible gives evidence that debate and discussion were a prominent part of the New Testament experience.  Without it, where are the checks and balances to what is preached in the name of “Jesus”..? 
    Acts 17:11 indicates that even Paul emphasized this when he noted the Bereans being more noble than the Thessalonicans because they were studying those things out that were preached (Mike adds:  not necessarily buying everything Paul was selling) to see if those things were true. Aren’t we supposed to be diligent in our studies?  Aren’t we supposed to be responsible when we perceive error by calling it out for debate and discussion?  Doesn’t that process make us stronger vice weaker?
    I have had the privilege to lead a number of folks to the Lord and to disciple many as well and I have never minded when folks ask hard questions – I think it makes us all better…  Just mho…  MM

  10. Yet another one of these Brave New Ersatz Calvinists.

    I find the lack of pretense refreshing in a way, but more is not better.  I have seen enough televangelist hair (both men and women) to make me sick for two lifetimes.  So the Jeans and T-shirt Coffee House style that was popular when I was young appeals to me.  I love frank discussion, so that appeals to me.  And those who follow fast on my heels in age (like Driscoll) are sick of the fakes that were busted while we were growing up.

    But this is ridiculous.  I don’t understand why these guys are this arrogant and boiling with anger.  I learned about some very evil things that were done with impunity and how some of these things have been essentially washed away through money and intimidation.  Just really sick things that have been done.  And I don’t know where the fear of God plays into things for these people or whether the fear God at all.  They certainly expect people to walk in awe and fear of them, though.

    I’d heard that Rick Warren is also pretty authoritarian and requires that a covenant be signed stating that people won’t challenge the elders or question the pastor.  Does anyone know if this is an urban myth or not, or where I would have heard this?

  11. “I’d heard that Rick Warren is also pretty authoritarian and requires that a covenant be signed stating that people won’t challenge the elders or question the pastor.  Does anyone know if this is an urban myth or not, or where I would have heard this?”

    They used to have a membership type of covenant. I do not know if they have one now. Probably had to do with new member orientation. Most mega’s have those and have a list of things about being a member. What it said was more subtle. It talked about not critisizing the church or the leadership or saying negative things about them. It is done in a more Rah, Rah manner. Like school spirit for churches

    I have been away from megaland for a few years now and understand some things are changing. People are leaving faster than they are coming. Never believe the numbers. They don’t even know them for sure.

  12. “I don’t understand why these guys are this arrogant and boiling with anger.”

    You nailed it. They are always angry and if you question them (followers) they always become insulting. Even the humor has an edge about it.

  13. On a related note, I’ve always wondered about the connection between Calvinism and complementarianism. The vast majority of Arminian denominations – particularly of the Wesleyan variety – seem to lean toward egalitarianism, while most Calvinist churches seem to be staunchly complementarian in their views.

  14. I do know there are exceptions, but by and large there does seem to be a connection. It would make an interesting poll, if done professionally.

  15. Calvinism and complementarianism?  It is old, old tradition.

    They carry torches for the Scottish John Knox and his “First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women” with great passion.  Knox retreated to Geneva when “Bloody” Mary Tudor reestablished Catholicism in the UK, and while in Geneva, Knox gleaned from the wisdom of Calvin himself.

    Ah, for those of you unfamiliar with this lovely writing, here’s a taste:


    “That the weak, the sick, and impotent persons shall nourish and keep the whole and strong? And finally, that the foolish, mad, and frenetic shall govern the discreet, and give counsel to such as be sober of mind? And such be all women, compared unto man in bearing of authority. For their sight in civil regiment is but blindness; their strength, weakness; their counsel, foolishness; and judgment, frenzy, if it be rightly considered…

    Nature, I say, does paint them forth to be weak, frail, impatient, feeble, and foolish; and experience has declared them to be inconstant, variable, cruel, lacking the spirit of counsel and regiment…

    Would to God the examples were not so manifest to the further declaration of the imperfections of women, of their natural weakness and inordinate appetites! I might adduce histories, proving some women to have died for sudden joy; some for impatience to have murdered themselves; some to have burned with such inordinate lust, that for the quenching of the same, they have betrayed to strangers their country and city; and some to have been so desirous of dominion, that for the obtaining of the same, they have murdered the children of their own sons, yea, and some have killed with cruelty their own husbands and children…

    For God, first by the order of his creation, and after by the curse and malediction pronounced against the woman (by reason of her rebellion) has pronounced the contrary…

    But after her fall and rebellion committed against God, there was put upon her a new necessity, and she was made subject to man by the irrevocable sentence of God…

    This sentence, I say, did God pronounce against Eve and her daughters, as the rest of the scriptures do evidently witness. So that no woman can ever presume to reign above man, but the same she must needs do in despite of God, and in contempt of his punishment and malediction…

    [Speaking of both 1 Tim 2:12 & 1 Cor 14:34] These two testimonies of the Holy Ghost are sufficient to prove whatsoever we have affirmed before, and to repress the inordinate pride of women, as also to correct the foolishness of those that have studied to exalt women in authority above men, against God and against his sentence pronounced…

    The apostle takes power from all women to speak in the assembly. Ergo, he permits no woman to rule above man…

    He then goes on to quote many of the patristic writings about women which are mostly Roman Catholic, something ironic because even Knox essentially bashes them in the sermon.

    But impossible it is to man and angel to give unto her the properties and perfect offices of a lawful head; for the same God that has denied power to the hand to speak, to the belly to hear, and to the feet to see, has denied to woman power to command man, and has taken away wisdom to consider, and providence to foresee, the things that are profitable to the commonwealth: yea, finally, he has denied to her in any case to be head to a man, but plainly has pronounced that “man is head to woman, even as Christ is head to all man [every man]” (1 Cor. 11:3)…

    For what man was there of so base judgment (supposing that he had any light of God), who did not see the erecting of that monster to be the overthrow of true religion

    I mean, I could put the whole thing up here.  And notably, it was written in protest to the Catholic Mary Tudor, but it all backfired on him somewhat when Elizabeth I succeeded her, considering that she was a devoted protestant.  And in his passionate discourse, he did build his entire argument upon male headship and the typical Scriptures used and applied by those devoted to the complementarian cause.

  16. “The vast majority of Arminian denominations – particularly of the Wesleyan variety – seem to lean toward egalitarianism, while most Calvinist churches seem to be staunchly complementarian in their views.”

    Perhaps with Wesleyan that is true. That was my experience with a Wesleyan University. However, from what I have seen workign with megas (most are comp) and the SBC, most are comp. The exceptions might be Pentecostal or the Charismatics. But not SGM churches which are extremely patriarchal. It would definitely be an interesting study. Comp seems to cut across the Arminian/Calvin divide. At many churches comp teaching is a big seller. It is not only a huge draw for new members but the seminars, conferences, literature and books are big sellers and bring in money. Don’t be fooled, Free Willers can be very hierarchical. :o)

  17. Things every Knox lover should know:

    1. He was one of the small group of plotters who killed Lord Darnely
    2. At 50, he married a 16 year old. Even his colleagues questioned this action.
    3. He was not above colluding with Elizabeth 1 to carry out his missions even after referring to her as one of the ‘monsterous regiment of women’.

    Nice guy. Big Hypocrit

  18. In other words, Sovereign Grace (and many of those groups that were hooked up into Shepherding which wove many Calvinist doctrine into things) is unusal.  They were far less Calvinist in years past, but they followed the hierarchy of shepherding.  The CBMW connection grew as their connection to Calvinism grew (as a guiding force).

    Anyway, they are an oddball group that underwent a lot of syncretism when they were formed, all resulting from the Charismatic Renewal and Shepherding, as they were one of the bigger shepherding denominations/groups.  Those threads all go back to Bob Mumford and his participation and dabbling in the dominionist ideas of the Calvinists.

    If you look only at where the groups came from, traditional Methodists and traditional Pentecostals tend to be more egalitarian.   Baptists that are Dispensational tend to be more egalitarian as opposed to their Reformed Baptist counterparts.

    I think.

    But Sovereign Grace is a weird product of both the “love and togetherness” of the time when it was formed and of the dropping of many denominational barriers during the Charismatic Renewal that seemed to trancend all denominational barriers.

  19. I am still working hard on year end accounting and haven’t had a chance to respond to everything here but I will do so by early next week.

    One thing I would like to mention is that I have seen a strong connection between complementarians & ultra strong calvinists & subordinationists.  The ones who are the strongest against the equal authority of Jesus appear to also be against women’s spiritual equality in the church and in strong agreement with John Calvin.  John Calvin was known for his “my way or the highway” approach.  I have been mulling over why the three seem connected in some way and why people like John Piper, John MacArthur and Mark Driscoll appear to be united on these issues.  Perhaps it is a coincidence, but somehow I don’t think so.

  20. Cheryl, SBTS is pretty much Calvinist and is very hierarchical in it’s teaching. Even Patriarchal. (Bruce Ware, MOore and Mohler)

    But SWBTS (Paige Patterson) is not Calvinist at ALL and is as hierarchical as SBTS. SWBTS is the one that fired Dr. Klouda because women are not to teach young men Hebrew. It really does cut across the lines in the SBC. All SBC seminaries are very comp/pat no matter if Free Will or Calvinistic.

  21. Lin,
    That is very helpful information.  Thanks!  Are you familiar with the relationship of the subordination of the Son regarding Calvinist/Arminian and complementarian/egalitarian in the Southern Baptist Convention?  I would be very interested to know more information in that area too.

  22. Are you familiar with the relationship of the subordination of the Son regarding Calvinist/Arminian and complementarian/egalitarian in the Southern Baptist Convention?  I would be very interested to know more information in that area too.

    That is a very interesting question. I have no idea and had not even thought about it.

  23. The eternal subordination of the Son to the Father is becoming more prominent with comps who blindly follow the most notable leaders in their movement.  Most have not really thought it through to know what they are accepting.  They just pick up popular “by lines”.

  24. The things said about Sovereign Grace are accurate. I know firsthand.

    And if you ask questions, you will eventually be unceremoniously shown the door.

    And it is a very odd chimera between Calvinism and Charismania.

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