Erring on the side of grace with Mark Driscoll and Rachel Held Evans

One of the commenters on my previous post defended Rachel Held Evans, who drew negative inferences about Mark Driscoll’s character today from comments he posted to a church message board 14 years ago. I wrote the following in response:

The 14-year-old comments are relevant, you say, because they show how deep-seated Driscoll’s problems are, which help us understand why he is unable to change, even though he repeatedly tries to change—or says he does.

In Driscoll’s small defense, however, he has changed—in the sense that he isn’t saying the same things today…

You would counter this by saying, “Ah, but he is saying the same things today, and let me tell you why.” But that can’t be true. If he were saying the same things today, why are these comments noteworthy? What need is there to dredge them up? They offer no new insights. It’s the same old story. In which case, just judge the man by what he says now.

If, however, his 14-year-old comments are actually worse (maybe much worse) than what he says today (the shock value of which is what inspires RHE to blog about them in the first place) then doesn’t it stand to reason that he has changed? At least a little? In which case, isn’t it unfair to bring this old stuff up?

You and RHE can’t have it both ways, can you? He’s changed or he hasn’t. And I think that is Dr. Peoples’s main point too.

Both my commenter and Held Evans believe that Driscoll’s comments reveal how crazy the man is. As I’ve since learned, however, based on what he himself wrote about them in a 2006 book, Driscoll would agree that these comments made him seem that way. He said that his posts “got insane” and that he was “raging like a madman.” He continued: “This season was messy and I sinned and cussed a lot, but God somehow drew a straight line with my crooked Philistine stick. I had a good mission, but some of my tactics were born out of anger and burnout, and I did a lot of harm and damage while attracting a lot of attention.”

Aren’t these the words of someone who is genuinely sorry for his sins? On what basis do we have to doubt his sincerity? He didn’t have to reveal to the world that he was “William Wallace II” in the first place, in which case the 14-year-old comments would have never come to light.

But now they have, and I feel sorry for him. As I said in the comments section of my previous post, if someone published a video of us (or, worse, transcribed our thoughts!) during our worst moments 14 years ago—or five years ago, or last year, or last month—whose life could bear the scrutiny? What would people infer about us? “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?”

If I believe Driscoll at his worst 14 years ago makes him some kind of monster, how do I know I’m not? How do you know you’re not? Or have we not come to grips with how frighteningly ugly our sin really is?

Regardless, since Held Evans and I both posted on the subject, Driscoll issued a more extensive apology for these comments, which Christianity Today reported.

In his Friday apology, Driscoll noted that, in his 2006 book, he used the forum posts as an example of “something I regretted and an example of a wrong I had learned from.”

“The content of my postings to that discussion board does not reflect how I feel, or how I would conduct myself today,” he told his church members Friday. “Over the past 14 years I have changed, and, by God’s grace, hope to continue to change. I also hope people I have offended and disappointed will forgive me.”

Can we Christians please err on the side of grace?

4 thoughts on “Erring on the side of grace with Mark Driscoll and Rachel Held Evans”

  1. Brent, I totally agree with you. Particularly: “As I said in the comments section of my previous post, if someone published a video of us during our worst moments 14 years ago—or five years ago, or last year, or last month—whose life could bear the scrutiny? What would people infer about us? ‘If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?'” To which I would mainly add, “Or two days ago.” Doubtfully I am not alone in slipping up on a regular basis. The trick is, to recognize you were wrong, and determine to do your best not to fail next time that “temptation” (of whatever variety) raises its ugly head again. “A righteous man FALLS DOWN SEVEN TIMES, and rises up again.” Be sorry and keep trying is the ticket to warranting forgiveness, I think. And hope people won’t take you to be a total ogre and evil based on such an occasional slip. (Though, admitting also that there is “no excuse” for it.)

    1. Thanks for this. I agree. I revised the quote above and added parenthetically, “published a video (or transcribed our thoughts!).”

  2. It would be an interesting project for someone to find writing of Rachel Held Evans 14 years ago (would she of been in college then?). I strongly suspect they would be markedly different (and less mature) than what she writes now. Due to her book mocking the Old Testament (and New) about women, I cannot say I look to her as a Christian commentator anyway.

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