MacArthur on Driscoll and ‘Grunge Christianity’

John MacArthur offers a candid critique of Mark Driscoll and ‘grunge Christianity.’

How does MacArthur describe Driscoll?

Mark Driscoll is one of the best-known representatives of that kind of thinking. He is a very effective communicator—a bright, witty, clever, funny, insightful, crude, profane, deliberately shocking, in-your-face kind of guy. His soteriology is exactly right, but that only makes his infatuation with the vulgar aspects of contemporary society more disturbing.

What does MacArthur take issue with?

The point I want to make is not about Driscoll’s language per se, but about the underlying philosophy that assumes following society down the Romans 1 path is a valid way to “engage the culture.” It’s possible to be overexposed to our culture’s dark side. I don’t think anyone can survive full immersion in today’s entertainments and remain spiritually healthy.

Why does MacArthur think this is such an important issue?

Even when you marry such worldliness with good systematic theology and a vigorous defense of substitutionary atonement, the soundness of the theoretical doctrine doesn’t sanctify the wickedness of the practical lifestyle. The opposite happens. Solid biblical doctrine is trivialized and mocked if we’re not doers of the Word as well as teachers of it.

What is MacArthur’s conclusion?

I frankly wonder how any Christian who takes the Bible at face value could ever think that in order to be “culturally relevant” Christians should participate in society’s growing infatuation with vulgarity. Didn’t vulgarity and culture used to be considered polar opposites?

The most striking thing MacArthur comments on in this article is the need for consistency between life and doctrine. When theology is divorced from its practical implications, that is when danger happens. In the case of Driscoll, however, I am not sure that the issue is a failure for his doctrine to shape his lifestyle. Instead, he places such an emphasis on cultural engagement that it sometimes bleeds into cultural submersion or infatuation.

Though MacArthur and Driscoll would agree on most theological points, there is a rift between how that impacts their life and cultural engagement. Becoming too much like the culture can rob the church of its capacity to minister to the culture. It always comes back to the tension between biblical faithfulness and cultural relevance.


4 thoughts on “MacArthur on Driscoll and ‘Grunge Christianity’

  1. What do you think Phillip? Was MacArthur fair to Mr. Driscoll?

    I wonder who decides what is vulgar? If I say crap, my mom gets mad at me. If I say “that sucks”, my wife gets mad at me. I have to admit, that after reading some of Driscoll’s quotes, I thought he was being vulgar, but who gets to decide that?

    I have to admit, that I am a little torn on this one.

  2. It seems me like MacArthur would not go for the claim that they are both right. I think that is the point of his post. Is this a matter of conscience? Yes. However, we can’t get away from the Romans 14 admonition not to let what doesn’t violate our conscience cause others to stumble. It’s a delicate tension.

    Scott, your point is well taken–often the standards are arbitrary. Vulgarity must be understood within its residual effects on the kingdom of Christ–is it building the kingdom by edifying yourself and others or tearing it down?

  3. I think MacArthur’s admonishment is well placed and well deserved. After all, it is just that, an admonishment. And it may just be that MacArthur is in fact MORE culturally relevant than Driscoll, in the sense that he sees the language of Driscoll from the eyes of modern culture, and the possible negative connotations of Discoll’s “Christian culture” that he portrays in his vulgarity. Matters of conscience are all well and fine in the privacy of your own home, but as we all know, men of the cloth are speaking for more than themselves (and in some sense, so are we). Conscience may just be a luxury that preachers such as Driscoll should check against the motives of their heart, before exhibiting for the rest of world. Frankly, if Jesus wouldn’t say it, niether should you…

    Your kingdom building question is an apt one, Phil. We should all ‘check’ our words and actions to that same standard…buidling up or tearing down…

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