On May 4, Mark Driscoll preached at Mars Hill Church in Seattle on Acts 6:1–7. As usual, the video of the sermon was not posted on the church's website until two weeks later. However, Mars Hill Church deleted a section from the video of Driscoll's original message. In that deleted section, Driscoll distinguished between sin and mistakes, claiming that Jesus never sinned but that he did make mistakes. Driscoll was referencing Luke 2:52, where Jesus is said to have grown in "wisdom and stature."
CT asked experts, "Did Jesus make mistakes?" Answers to the question are arranged below on a spectrum from "yes" at the top to "no" at the bottom.
"Driscoll's point is prosaic and uncontroversial. Jesus learned to do things as a child through trial and error like reading and writing. That's obvious if we take the humanity of Jesus seriously. It's in Gnostic writings like the Infancy Gospel of Thomas where the child Jesus is a supernatural prodigy, incapable of error though prone to fits of vengeance against adults and other children. While critical scholars have argued that Jesus made factual, theological, and even moral errors during his ministry, traditional Christians have never agreed, and neither would Driscoll, I suspect. Driscoll's point about Jesus making mistakes, while needing qualification, is theologically sound."
~ Michael Bird, lecturer in theology, Ridley Melbourne Mission and Ministry College
"Who knows what Jesus was capable or incapable of doing as a boy? The fact that many apocryphal stories of Jesus doing miraculous acts as a boy were rejected by the church shows that for early Christians it was perhaps more important to affirm the true humanity of Jesus. If by mistake Driscoll means that as a boy Jesus could have 'missed the ball' and lost the game to his cousin John, I have no problem."
~ Simon Chan, professor of systematic theology, Trinity Theological College, Singapore
"The problem is we have so little direct information. The Gospels do not record any 'Jesus mistakes.' From that, we could assume he made none. Also, many people assume Jesus couldn't make mistakes because he was God, and God is infallible. However, Jesus was also human, and 'to err is human.' Could he have been truly human and never made mistakes? Luke 2:52 says Jesus grew in 'wisdom.' Is it possible to grow in wisdom without any lacking wisdom, even as a child? This question simply can't be answered definitively."
~ Roger Olson, professor of theology and ethics, George W. Truett Theological Seminary
"Jesus didn't make any moral mistakes. But in his humanity, he necessarily had incomplete knowledge. Certainly as a child, Jesus had to 'learn how to do things' (Driscoll). Luke says, 'Jesus increased in wisdom.' Even as an adult, Jesus in his humanity had incomplete knowledge. Sometimes he seemed unaware of things until informed by others. But he was led by the Spirit, resisted temptation, and never sinned. Still, it's misleading to call any behaviors of Jesus that reflected incomplete human knowledge mistakes. Since mistake commonly means 'misguided' or 'wrong,' it is better to avoid the term with regard to Jesus."
~ Howard Snyder, former professor, United Theological Seminary, Asbury Seminary, and Tyndale Seminary
"Driscoll rightly points out that Luke's Gospel depicts a 'learning' Jesus in the same language used to describe Samuel (1 Sam. 2:26; Luke 2:46, 52). But to use the term mistake in this context is sloppy. Mistake communicates to most of us that 'it should have been some other way.' When my children were young and said 'him's' instead of 'his,' I don't believe that process should have happened another way. That's why we use terms like 'rookie mistake' to set apart this stumbling in the learning process. Mistake, however, indicates that I am already learned in something yet still do something other than what should have been done. I drank too much. I let a wound fester too long. In this sense, it's difficult to believe the New Testament authors held such a view of Jesus, even in the most ordinary aspects of his humanity."
~ Dru Johnson, professor of biblical studies, The King's College
"We can distinguish between mistakes and sins. Suppose I write about Jane Austin on social media. My friend corrects me: 'It's Austen, not Austin.' I made a mistake, yet no sin was committed, surely. However, sin involves a mistake of some sort—failing to meet the mark. Jesus could not sin, because God cannot sin, and he is God incarnate (Hab. 1:13; Heb. 4:15). His divine nature is perfect, and a perfect being cannot make mistakes. So Christ the God-man could not make mistakes."
~ Oliver Crisp, professor of systematic theology, Fuller Theological Seminary