Mark Driscoll's Apology: Blogging means sometimes having to say "I'm sorry"

In January, Out of Ur ran an editorial written by Brian McLaren on a pastoral response to homosexuality. Hundreds of readers posted comments either supporting or condemning McLaren's perspective. But none caused as much uproar as the rant written by Mark Driscoll.

Driscoll, who is pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, now regrets the tone of his remarks as well as taking what he calls "cheap shots" at Brian McLaren and Emergent pastor Doug Pagitt. On Monday, Mark Driscoll issued an apology to McLaren, Pagitt, and readers offended by his comments. You may read his full apology at his blog, Resurgence. Driscoll writes:

And after listening to the concerns of the board members of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network that I lead, and of some of the elders and deacons at Mars Hill Church that I pastor, I have come to see that my comments were sinful and in poor taste.
Therefore, I am publicly asking for forgiveness from both Brian and Doug because I was wrong for attacking them personally and I was wrong for the way in which I confronted positions with which I still disagree. I also ask forgiveness from those who were justifiably offended at the way I chose to address the disagreement.

Jay Rosen declared in 2004 that blogging has shifted the media from a lecture to a conversation. The problem with conversation, both the old fashioned and the new digital variety, is the likelihood that eventually we'll say something we regret. That likelihood only increases when the subject of conversation is controversial and passionately debated.

Dr. Craig Blomberg from Denver Seminary wrote a piece for Out of Ur questioning the benefit of blogging for Christians. "With unprecedented ease of access comes the temptation to ?shoot from the hip' and respond with little thought or care for how one comes across." Dr. Blomberg reminds us that the blogosphere is a dangerous realm where temptation lurks behind every "submit" button, and we must rely upon the Spirit of Christ not only to control our tongues but also our keyboards.

One visitor to Out of Ur during January described the experience as like being in a foxhole during a gun battle - he was hesitant to post a comment fearing he'd get hit in the crossfire. Others disturbed by the conversation disengaged entirely. But Mark Driscoll's apology reveals there may be a redemptive blessing to remaining engaged. Sure, blogging can lead to regretful or even harmful dialogue, but within failure is always the opportunity for growth.

Henri Nouwen said that, "Community is the place where the person you least want to live with always lives." This observation takes on new meaning when applied to a Christian blog. We are guaranteed to encounter brothers and sisters online with divergent opinions, theologies, and perspectives, and passionate conversation is unavoidable. Some of what we read may bother us, some things may infuriate us. Still, engaging in dialogue with a diverse community, although challenging, provides us the opportunity to grow in tolerance, patience, and even humility by apologizing when necessary.

March 28, 2006

Displaying 1–10 of 19 comments

Joshua Ballard

April 03, 2006  10:50am

Please stay tuned for my brief batch of consciousness writing. Why can't we as Christians be brash and offensive? Was it Christ who said that we shouldn't get into each others faces? My Bible tells me that when dealing with those who professed to know God, he called them 'brood of vipers' which means 'Children of Snakes'. Knowing full well that the typology of Serpent imagery would have been interpreted by those as meaning 'Children of Satan'. Was Peter offended when Paul got into his face? I think when You stand and call an apostle 'condemned' to his face there would be a smidgen of offense. In all honesty, I don't think that Mark should have had to apologise. Jesus ridiculed those who professed knowledge of God. The hand of grace was extended to those who KNEW they were sinful, to those who KNEW they needed his salvation. I think that Mark's post actually illuminated some of the issues that could arise out of the direction of the Theology that Mr. McLaren and Mr. Pagitt seem to espouse. As hyperbolic as it was, it served the purpose quite well. I can't help but think of one of the most offensive passages in scripture, when Paul was dealing with the Galatians. Galatians 5:12 "I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!" Tell me that isn't offensive. I don't know about you, but I see the whole thing as a crying shame.

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Randy Ehle

March 31, 2006  3:47pm

Thanks to Scott T for the "inside scoop" and the coining of a new term for accountability - "nathanize". I love it! Just a thought here on being "offended" - sometimes I am offended because someone did or said something disrespectful to/about me or to/about someone whom I value (e.g., God). Other times I'm offended simply because I'm easily offended. The former focuses on the other person and may need to be "nathanized"; the latter is a personal problem. We who are in ministry need to have thick skin and not be easily offended.

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March 31, 2006  10:45am

From Dirk: "I vaguely remember an exhortation to forgive as Christ has forgiven us. Is this really how you think Jesus does it? "OK. I'll forgive you, but I still don't trust you. And by the way, you're offensive. And it took too long for you to ask for forgiveness. And I wonder if you're really sincere. And I find the timing and circumstances of your repentance to be a little questionable. But hey, I forgive you…though I still have my suspicions about you."" Dirk, you beat me to it as I only found the post this morning. Men and women of God, let's act like Jesus. It's time to quit 'speck-ulating' about Mark. Our 'b-logging' is showing more of the real truth of the matter than I think we in Christ would hope for.

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David F

March 30, 2006  6:01pm

This really is a great demonstration of Gospel repentance. Grace takes sin seriously because it assumes the only way we can have peace with God is through his unmerited favor. This frees us to repent in a way that is foreign to the religionist. Religious repentance is always bitter because it only comes about through great stress and pressure, and results in a repentance only to maintain a façade of holiness. When we orient ourselves in a moral ways to God it is unnatural to repent because we are constantly performing to earn his favor. Gospel repentance shows us our acceptance in Christ and makes it easier to admit we are broken and flawed because we know that we won't be cast off if we confess the depths of our wicked and sinful hearts. Since our hope is in Christ, and not our performance, it isn't as traumatic to admit our sin and weakness. The more and more we sense the acceptance and love of the Father found in the gospel, the more and more we will be repenting...even over issues that others may not see or understand. Mark's ability to drop any denials and self-defenses and to admit his sin, demonstrates yet again the gospel at work, shaping and molding, breaking and building, convicting and forgiving. The more we see our own flaws, the more precious and amazing God's grace will appear. Brother, thank you for leading us in repentance that is focused upon God's grace, and not upon the maintenance and performance of your position and authority. Resolution #8 from Edwards: Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.

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Scott T

March 30, 2006  10:27am

For the record, I was on the board that discussed this issue with Mark Driscoll. He started the meeting by asking for our forgiveness and by saying that he was wrong in his approach. He didn't have to be "Nathanized" to finally come to his senses. He came with humility, brokenness and a repentant heart. The reason that a response took so long was not the lack of the Spirit working on him. It was because he submitted his written response to the board and each one had to approve it before it was submitted formally to Out of Ur and on Resurgence. This was his idea, not ours. Do you know how long it takes a busy church-planting pastor to return an e-mail? The Mark Driscoll that some of you villainize him to be and the Mark Driscoll that I know are different people. He is a caring, compassionate pastor who isn't perfect but gains followers and critics by his straight-forward, unashamed passion for the authority of the Scriptures for every believer for every generation for the glory of God. I left the board meeting with more respect for Mark Driscoll because I had witnessed yet another level of openness and honesty of Pastor Driscoll that isn't always evident of famous or influential pastors to the casual observer. I was humbled at the continual work of the gospel in his own life. Glory to God alone.

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Mike C.

March 29, 2006  9:40pm

Is this really how you think Jesus does it? "OK. I'll forgive you, but I still don't trust you. And by the way, you're offensive. And it took too long for you to ask for forgiveness. And I wonder if you're really sincere. And I find the timing and circumstances of your repentance to be a little questionable. But hey, I forgive you…though I still have my suspicions about you." For the record, I mistrusted and disagreed with Mark long before he went on his rant or apologized. Neither of these events did much to change my opinion of him. I can forgive him and yet still not like him or his opinions. Just because you forgive an abusive person doesn't mean you have to be naive enough to let him abuse you again. Not that it's my right to forgive or not. I'm not the one he sinned against.

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Mike Reynolds

March 29, 2006  5:46pm

Thanks Pastor Mark for your apology. I am one of those who wrote to say that I felt that the comments were getting out of hand. I attend your church as often as I can get out to Seattle, and I always bring a crew of college students with me, many of whom now call your church their home. Both you and Brian Mclaren have been a great source of inspiration for me over different topics. Brian's openness to new ways of learning and communicating and experiencing the gospel are valuable and should not be overlooked even though there certainly are areas of his theology that I am troubled with and I'm sure you disagree with as well. Thanks for your sincere apology.

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Tim Meisenheimer

March 29, 2006  4:01pm

Now it's my turn to be offended. Don't we all get a turn? Really, I'm not but I'm sorry you felt the need to question and make inuendos about Mark Driscoll's apology. I hope the subtle put-down makes you feel better - or as you say, "very happy." Let's put a couple of things on the table: 1) The blog you reference is not meant for his church. It is on the site of what is meant to be a nationwide resource for church planting. I'm four states away and never been to his church but am very interested in church planting. 2) Driscoll has a personal history with the people he is apologizing to. When you love deeply you get much more frustrated and it's easy to be more intense than warranted. 3) Calling into question the sincerity of the apology because it may have been influenced by people around him is unfortunate. That those who know him well and to whom he is accountable to have confronted him about this is an intended function of the body of Christ. Are you going to throw out Psalm 51 because it took Nathan to confront David about his sin before David repented? I'm sure this was not intended but it still smells. I personally was not offended by the rant but I also make no excuses for it. I think most of what Driscoll said is true and I share the same frustration with people who seem to be waffling on the authority of Scripture and the Sovereignty of God when they should know better. I think Driscoll had a lot to apologize for and did so as the spirit of the communication is as important as what is communicated. In truth, it was always between him and God.

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Dirk Blaylock

March 29, 2006  3:58pm

OK, some of you guys are beginning to scare me. I vaguely remember an exhortation to forgive as Christ has forgiven us. Is this really how you think Jesus does it? "OK. I'll forgive you, but I still don't trust you. And by the way, you're offensive. And it took too long for you to ask for forgiveness. And I wonder if you're really sincere. And I find the timing and circumstances of your repentance to be a little questionable. But hey, I forgive you…though I still have my suspicions about you." Is this really how you respond to a request for forgiveness? With condescension, name-calling and suspicion? Then good luck when you need mercy. Personally, I'm not in a position to take that kind of risk. Instead, I'm compelled to say: Mark, thank you for your apology. It's accepted. I will not hold a few errant words against you. This is nothing compared to some of the boneheaded things I've said, or some of the rebellious things I've done. For some unknown reason, God has forgiven me completely and has buried my sins in the sea of forgetfulness. I'll treat you as he has treated me.

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Randy Ehle

March 29, 2006  3:54pm

I'm coming in as something of an outsider, having not read Driscoll's original comments. Several readers here, though, have posted some interesting comments and questions that are worth addressing, specifically regarding the length of time it took for Mark to apologize and the impetus for that apology. Sin is sin - but we don't always realize immediately that we have sinned. Even when we do, we are not always convicted immediately. Wasn't this the case with David and Uriah, Bathsheba's husband? I'm pretty sure that David knew he was sinning, but he did it anyway. I don't know how much time passed before Nathan confronted the king and David became convicted of his sin, but it certainly wasn't right away. Did that make his repentance any less real? No. Did the fact that his councilor had to confront him limit the sincerity of his repentance? Again, no. Why question Driscoll's repentance just because it took some time or because he felt "pressure [from] within his own church"? I could just as well question Keith's forgiveness of Driscoll because it doesn't sound rather grudging and not very sincere. I say we thank God (literally) for Mark's repentance and we offer our wholehearted forgiveness in the same manner that we have been forgiven - "while we were still sinners".

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