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?