April 17, 2009

Rebuke One Who Has Understanding and He Will Discern Knowledge

For over a year now, I have been deeply concerned about some of the teaching that is being propagated by the leader of a Seattle church and of the Acts 29 movement, Mark Driscoll. Although previously expressing misgivings about the man's flippancy in an interview with New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in March 2008, I have since remained relatively silent. However, one of his more recent missives, released in November 2008, was absolutely horrifying to my wife and me. And now, at this time, because Mark Driscoll continues to gain recognition, and in order to support publicly the sober response of another minister, I have chosen to speak again to the matter.

One man's ministry that has repeatedly inspired many ministers to be more biblical and thus more like our Lord Jesus Christ, in word and in deed, over the years, is Dr. John MacArthur. Dr. MacArthur recently concluded a short series in Pulpit Magazine on proper and improper exegesis of the Song of Solomon and on the need for purity in the pulpit. His four-part series is a restrained approach to a recent rash of improper but otherwise unchallenged conduct by Mark Driscoll. MacArthur has shown incredible foresight even as other ministers, who continue to support Mark Driscoll, have apparently been rather reluctant to register rebuke.

The doctrinal moral of this sad tale is that any time that a preacher attempts to appropriate worldly methods to aid in the propagation of the gospel, he has already fundamentally compromised the gospel. The recent movement towards claiming that, "As long as our doctrine is correct, we can agree to use various methods," certainly carries some truth, but such a position is not to be taken naively. Methodology, too, is restrained by the commands of Christ, both positively with regard to the church's actions (preaching the Word, celebrating the ordinances, worshiping in spirit and in truth, etc.) and negatively with regard to personal and communal doctrinal and moral integrity. The issue in the present case is moral integrity: there simply is no way that the sacred and the profane, or Christianity and Hedonism, may be blended, even for altruistic "missional" reasons. In the very act of combining the holy--that which has been separated unto God--with the unholy, the result is assured to be profane (1 Cor. 5:6, 10:21).

Earlier this evening, as I spoke tenderly but firmly to my oldest son about how to treat a young lady properly when on a date, I prayed for him to have wisdom in such situations and he bowed his head in agreement. And later, as I tucked my two precious daughters into bed, moved in the depths of my heart by concern for them in a sinful world, I prayed for the Lord to give these girls godly husbands, who would treat them with a holy respect, in word and in deed, and they smiled in agreement. And tonight, as I conclude this post, I pray that the ministers of our nation, young and old, will see their task not to engage their cultures with reckless abandon but to carry their Christ-given crosses with bold holiness. Oh, Lord, hear this prayer! And, oh, reader, consider the wisdom of Proverbs 19:25!

Thank you, Dr. MacArthur, for your bold and needed stance in reminding us of these truths. May others see the wisdom in your words. (Note: If you are not a mature believer, please do not read the posts linked here. Although Dr. MacArthur handles the issues circumspectly, they are nevertheless for the mature.)
Dr. John MacArthur, "The Rape of Solomon's Song" (part 1)
"The Rape of Solomon's Song" (part 2)
"The Rape of Solomon's Song" (part 3)
"The Rape of Solomon's Song" (conclusion)


  1. Many thanks Malcolm.
    I may be over your way in early June.
    Every Blessing,

  2. Thank you for this. Your imagery of son and daughters is powerful. As the father of a 14 year old, I fear what could happen to the minds of teenagers were they to follow some of what Driscoll propagates. My fear is that we have replaced 'holiness' with 'relevance.' We no longer care of its value towards developing holiness, only that it is relevant.

  3. Anonymous9:29 AM

    Good post Dr. Yarnell. I agree with you and John MacArthur. Method is just as important as our theology. To be crass and disrespectful is certainly not part of our theology. We need to retain holiness in the pulpit and outside the pulpit. Otherwise we are winning people who tend to be false converts. Not willing to take up the Cross and follow Christ.

  4. Why did take this long. Driscoll's radio program with Leif Moi was taken off the air in Your city over fifteen years ago because of his teaching on these issues. His message hasn't changed. He has become more bold in his presentation because people like Piper have endorsed him.

    My comments on this latest round:


  5. You stated:

    "Methodology, too, is restrained by the commands of Christ, both positively with regard to the church's actions (preaching the Word, celebrating the ordinances, worshiping in spirit and in truth, etc.) and negatively with regard to personal and communal doctrinal and moral integrity."

    This concise presentation of the argument is the most respectful critque I have come across to date. I read (and listen to) Mark Driscoll, and, after reading you respectful comments, I will read (and listen) with a more informed perspective.


Edifying comments always appreciated!