Reformed Theology

Why I won’t be going to the Shepherd’s Conference anytime soon, part 1: Phil Johnson

I’ve been sitting on this one for a while because I wanted to make sure I was fully-informed and was hearing straight from the horse’s mouth.

I must say I was very shocked by Phil Johnson’s portrayal of Mark Driscoll at the Shepherd’s Conference. I didn’t go to the conference, but I downloaded the audio from all the sessions, and I have come to the conclusion that I won’t be going to the conference any time soon (meaning ever, most likely). I have listened to Mark Driscoll regularly for a few years, and I had never heard the things of which he was being accused. However, I had never heard his series on Song of Solomon, which is what has been causing all the commotion lately, so, over the past few months, I listened to the entire series. (I also listened to all the available mp3s from Kim Riddlebarger on Amillennialism, but that won’t factor into the current post, though it has a little to do with my next post.)

Here are my remarks to Phil Johnson’s message.

  1. I agree that XXXChurch’s efforts to “contextualize” the gospel are appalling. However, in the same message that he attacked a lot of so-called churches’ attempts to be relevant to non-Christians, he also attacked Mark Driscoll, and the tone of the message, based on the repeated references to Seattle, was that he was talking about Mark Driscoll the whole time.
  2. I have never heard Mark Driscoll cuss, and I listen to him regularly.
  3. When Mark Driscoll talks about sex it’s because he’s telling all the single 20-something males in his congregation (his church’s largest demographic) that the things they do alone at night in the dark in front of their computers are sinful, and that they need to straighten up, get jobs, romance a godly woman, get married, and fulfill God’s purpose for their lives, and then they will be rewarded because they will be doing things the way God designed. It’s the same thing more mainstream Calvinists like Josh Harris, C.J. Mahaney, and John Piper have been saying for years. This “pr0nification of the pulpit” charge Phil Johnson makes does not apply to him.
  4. Furthermore, when Driscoll talks about things others consider inappropriate, it’s not at Sunday morning corporate family worship, and he tells people to put their kids in childcare if the content is too mature. Also, it’s not like he steers the conversation in that direction. Rather, he does a Q & A thing after a talk on the Song of Solomon, where people send in their questions anonymously via text message, and he answers their questions.
  5. When attacking Mark Driscoll, Phil Johnson does not actually cite Mark Driscoll. He just cites the New York Times, who said he was too racy for GodTube.
  6. Martin Luther is too racy for GodTube.
  7. Jesus is too racy for GodTube.
  8. Phil Johnson grossly misquotes Mark Driscoll when he accuses him of making a dirty joke of Ecclesiastes 9:10, which he takes particular offense to because it was his late mother’s life verse. The problem is, Mark Driscoll does not use it to tell a joke. He uses it to illustrate a real case of a sinner he knew who was trying to justify his sin by twisting Scripture, and he clearly says, No, that’s not what it means, and you can’t twist Scripture like that to justify your own sin. Furthermore, it was not out of the blue, but was in response to an interviewer’s question: Does the Bible talk about ____? A: No, but I’ve heard a guy try to twist scripture… And Driscoll is not the only one who uses this type of illustration. Some pastors tell stories about people’s misapplications of Gen. 1:29 and 1 Tim. 5:23. What disturbs me is the fact that so many people listening to Phil Johnson will just take him at face value even though they’ve never heard it from the horse’s mouth.
  9. Phil Johnson’s twisting-the-truth attack of Mark Driscoll is nothing less than slander, which is probably a worse sin than the coarse jesting of which he’s accusing Driscoll.
  10. Personal testimony: God in his providence has used Mark Driscoll to encourage me to stop playing WoW and to work at planting a church. If it weren’t for him, I’d still be playing WoW every waking moment when I’m not at work, and I probably wouldn’t be a husband and father to my wonderful family Christina and Ava. (See my video blog about WoW vs. church planting.)
  11. I’ve listened to Driscoll’s entire series on Song of Solomon, and I can wholeheartedly recommend it to all Christian adults who are not committed to lifelong celibacy. To married couples for obvious reasons. To single males because they will hear what they need to hear: that they need to get jobs and should not be doing any of the activities described in the book until they are married. To single women because they will hear what they need to hear: that they should not date a man who is not both ready to provide and ready to commit.

Here is the first message from Driscoll’s “The Peasant Princess” series in Song of Solomon. You can find your way to the rest.

Judge the preacher if you like, but do remember that there is something better to be done than that, namely, to get all the good you can out of him, and pray his Master to put more good into him. What if the man be odd and strange, yet, as men take pearls out of oyster shells, so may you be willing to accept from God whatever of precious truth he sends you. Despise not the heavenly treasure because of the earthen vessel. Lose not an opportunity of being enriched because the gold lies in connection with common earth. (Charles Spurgeon, Eccentric Preachers)

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