Who Would Jesus Smack Down?

Molly Worthen writes a NY Times piece on Mark Driscoll, the New Calvinists, and the trend towards masculine Christianity. Good article.

Also: Missional Predictions for 2009 and Coffee shop church makes the news

Related: The Skinny on Mark Driscoll


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Not to get all theological-geeky on you, but the article isn’t describing “neo-Calvinists.” Neo-Calvinism is a distinct historical movement which has little to do with the strident Puritanism of the New Calvinists described in the NYT article. Wikipedia: http://cli.gs/An7N5A

  • Greg Mills says:

    Good article in what way? Calvin had people burned at the stake?

  • junior says:

    The link Mark provided provides info about Neo-Calvinists/Neo-Calvinism.
    “Calvin had people burned at the stake”? Is that old wives tale still circulating?

  • Andrew Jones says:

    Mark – thanks – Molly uses the word “New Calvinists” rather than Neo-Calvinist so i am editing that word in my post.
    Good, Greg, because it captures Mark pretty well and is quite accurate. I have been following the writer Molly Worthen for a while [she reads my blog] and I think she did a good job and should be commended
    As for Calvin burning people at the stake, I thought he was more famous for drowning the Anabaptists in Lake Geneva than he ever was for burning heretics at the stake but i am sure a good historian will tell us whether Calvin had Michael Servetus burned to death on October 27, 1553 . . . or not.

  • If you don’t care to register at the NYT to see the article, there is a PDF of it here:

  • John Welch says:

    I am a theologian and Molly’s description of Mark’s elucidation of Calvinism is not quite on.
    She writes: “you are not captain of your soul or master of your fate but a depraved worm whose hard work and good deeds will get you nowhere, because God marked you for heaven or condemned you to hell before the beginning of time.”
    Let me break this down.
    “you are not captain of your soul or master of your fate but a depraved worm whose hard work and good deeds will get you nowhere”
    So far so good. She is on thus far.
    Continuing: “because God marked you for heaven or condemned you to hell before the beginning of time.”
    This is what is called double-predestination and it is a view that Mark does NOT hold. Instead, Mark holds that all choose sin but God chooses freely to save some. The distinction is that nobody goes to hell who does not choose it for himself. See his chapter entitled “Unlimited Limited Atonement” in Death by Love or his YouTube.com video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtdRM2KX83w

  • sarah says:

    Thanks for the link. Very interesting article.
    “When one of the renegade elders refused to repent, the church leadership ordered members to shun him. One member complained on an online message board and instantly found his membership privileges suspended. “They are sinning through questioning,” Driscoll preached.”
    Can someone say “spiritual abuse”?

  • Jeremy says:

    “When one of the renegade elders refused to repent, the church leadership ordered members to shun him. One member complained on an online message board and instantly found his membership privileges suspended. “They are sinning through questioning,” Driscoll preached.”
    this makes me wonder about Driscoll’s true humility, because this really sounds like nothing more than an abuse of power in patriarchal system. Because if people are sinning by questioning as Driscoll claims, then that means essentially that Driscoll is right and anybody who disagrees with him is sinning and a heretic. I’m beginning to wonder if she is misrepresenting Driscoll here, because there are plenty of people at Mars Hill Church (from what I know of it) that disagree with Driscoll? I’m not saying she is misrepresenting him, I’m just WONDERING if she is? Miss Worthen if you read this could you please respond and clarify if indeed you mean to say that Mark Driscoll is saying “agree with everything I say or get out!” because that is what it seems like.

  • Matthew Neal says:

    Saying John Calvin burned Servetus at the stake is like saying that the President of the United States is elected by popular vote; close, but not quite.
    Calvin was not the dictator of Geneva, nor did he hold any governmental office. The city council respected Calvin’s opinion more than they maybe should have. Michael Servetus (who denied the Trinity) came to Geneva of his own accord and Calvin spotted him in a church service and called the city authorities who arrested him. He was charged with heresy by the city council and Calvin drew up the theological charges against him. Servetus was promptly found guilty and sentenced to burning which Calvin unsuccessfully attempted to get commuted to beheading.
    Was Calvin wrong? Yes; he was in many ways a product of his age.
    Did Calvin burn Servetus at the stake? The sentence is a half-truth.
    We also are children of our age. May history judge us with the same measure of condemnation we see fit to dish out.

  • Elise says:

    First of all, the brand of Calvinism Driscoll displays, while possibly a bit more in tune with current youth culture, is nothing new. I am the child of two Calvinist parents, one of which came to the faith in the 70s. Many of the congregation members in their church came to Calvinism much earlier. Secondly, the article confuses Calvinism as a set of doctrines with both Driscoll and the man Calvin himself. While both have been known to do a number of things that would make the average evangelical shudder, most of these things are not based in the major tenets of Calvinism. Admittedly, some are. Basically, the idea that should be in the back of your head is that one man is never representative of even MOST of a group of people. At its heart, Calvinism is more or less a form of Christianity based on a very, probably uncomfortably, literal interpretation of the Bible. While this leads to some rather nasty implications for some of us, we should be wary of assuming all the nasty things done in the name of Calvinism come from the movement itself. Despite my current atheist affiliation, I’ve come to respect most Calvinist Protestants. And I think many people, given exposure to the ideology, probably would too.

  • Steve says:

    I like my friend’s reaction to reading this article:

    I hate theology that calls out the worst in humanity. God creates perfect sunsets but he’s not very good with people.

    I mean, isn’t that basically what Calvinism boils down to? Where’s the good news in that?
    Rarely does the mainstream media get religion “right” in pieces like this, but I thought the author here did a bang-up job on this piece.

  • becky says:

    As part of my research for an upcoming book, I attended Mars Hill Church in Seattle. As I’m Episcopalian, my theology is more grounded in Richard Hooker than John Calvin – so I’ll leave it up to those who are experts in that field to parse those particulars. But in terms of the actual service, Molly’s depiction of what I witnessed was pretty much spot on – I find it bizarre when Mark is labeled “emergent” because what I saw was more a throwback to the 1950s albeit decked out in contemporary music and grunge gear. The format of the Mars Hill Church services follows the same outline that I’ve found at many large evangelical church services.
    Mark’s muscle message definitely taps into this growing movement (at last here in the states) towards reclaiming the traditional male/female roles, as well as a reaction against the “soft seeker sensitive services.” I’d like to know what books he uses to prepare for his sermons as there were several moments I came close losing my lunch. But to be honest, I’ve heard similar sermons uttered elsewhere – just not quite as testosterone driven.
    Still, I get the lure of the Mars Hill Church vibe – in today’s world of gray, Mark gives you black and white answers — compare that to some emergent/mainline gatherings where we all all sit in a circle and contextualize our faith. Jesus is seen as a cool social justice dude and not our savior who will usher in a new kingdom today. That’s the hope I need to keep me from cracking up. Also, as soon as you exit the service, you can be plugged in to an online community and have some instant connection. Yes, like instant coffee, it’s not the real deal (Mars Hill Church was the only place in Seattle I was served bad coffee) but it does warm you up when you’re cold and lonely. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve checked out an Episcopal service (that is my heritage) where I felt the welcoming committee was sucking on lemons.
    I think church leaders could learn from Mark D. – are there things we could be providing that we’re not which draws people to this place? Having said that, I have NO clue why anyone would want to go to Mars Hill Church when they could swing by and rock with Karen Ward and the COTA crew. I attended a confirmation there that brought tears to my eyes -that’s the real deal. Thanks be to God.

  • nic paton says:

    Andrew thanks for the link. I think the closing line of Molly’s piece is telling:
    “Driscoll’s New Calvinism underscores a curious fact: the doctrine of total human depravity has always had a funny way of emboldening, rather than humbling, its adherents.”

  • Ted Salas says:

    “When one of the renegade elders refused to repent, the church leadership ordered members to shun him.”
    What was the elder in question supposed to repent of?
    Anybody know?

  • Matthew Neal says:

    Anyone who wants to take Mark Driscoll as the Calvinistic poster boy had better look elsewhere. It is obvious from the last line of the story that the author has no knowledge of “uber-Clavinist” teachers such as John Piper and CJ Mahaney; and anyone who tries to question their humility is on a fool’s errand.

  • becky says:

    Here are some letters the NYTimes got in response to the article …
    As noted, I found Mark D. to be tapping into the Victorian notion of Muscular Christianity movement that more or less died out by 1920 but keeps making the rounds – check out Jeff Sharlet’s “The Family” for an excellent book that explores the notion of Muscular Christianity as it’s played out among an elite group of religious political power brokers. (Mark doesn’t tape into the politics here but he does revive many of the themes one finds at say a Promise Keeper’s event or a True Woman Conference.) That’s why I find words like neo and new make no sense when applied to Driscoll – been there, done that, next.

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