Strange Fire: Mark Driscoll open letter to John MacArthur

Strange Fire: Mark Driscoll open letter to John MacArthur October 25, 2013

There has been an interesting twist to the Strange Fire controversy and the side-show which is Mark Driscoll vs John MacArthur. In an open letter, Driscoll has challenged MacArthur to a duel I mean genial discussion with himself or Wayne Grudem at his Resurgence Conference.

The Strange Fire conference felt like one group in the Church erecting a large wall, and then yelling over the top of at it at another group.

If they really want to help the Global Church, Grace To You must look for ways to engage charismatics in a genuine conversation.

My prediction? MacArthur won’t go to Seattle. I’m not sure he wants to really do a debate or even a discussion. But I could of course be wrong. There will be a lot of gospel-loving charismatics there, so meeting some of them might help MacArthur understand that not all charismatics look like the ones he sees on TV!

I know that MacArthur has also been invited to be a participant in a discussion on Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable? radio program or to send a representative.  I hope he accepts at least one of these invites.

Here is an extract from Driscoll’s letter:

Dear Pastor John MacArthur,

Let me start by saying thank you.

Thank you for preaching the Bible year after year. As a new Christian, I listened to a lot of your sermons via technology and learned a lot of Bible from you .  .  .

Lastly, thank you for having courage and boldness. Admittedly, we disagree on some things that I would consider secondary and you would consider primary, but a man who takes the Bible seriously and has passion to defend truth is rare in our day . . .

As you may have heard, I dropped by your recent Strange Fire conference . .  .

The only difficult moments on my visit came during my interactions not with your pastoral staff, but with a few of the apparently staff security personnel. I had been handing out advance copies of my new book for free; the pastoral staff said I was welcome on campus. They were kind, and some of them even asked for photos and books, which I gave them and signed with a pen I borrowed from your son, Mark. He kindly lent it to me, we visited, and he too was very kind, very welcoming, and very gracious.

However, there were two security guards who seemed to operate in a manner inconsistent with the permission I received from the pastoral staff. These two men took turns approaching me as I was talking with and praying for people, and things got confusing.

Security said I could not hand the books out, so I stopped. But people started helping themselves to the books that remained in the box, so security said the books had to be removed . . . He told me that they were taking them to put them in a Mustang, which they apparently thought was my vehicle. I did not know what Mustang they were referring to. In any case, it was obvious that my gift books were being removed.

It was at this point that I told the security guard that, since they were going to confiscate the books anyway, they could just keep them as a gift from me. Apparently, someone recorded the final words of this conversation on video, but nothing of the prior conversations that led up to it.

As Bible teachers, we both know that people often arrive at the wrong conclusion when they extract a line out of an ongoing discussion . . . Mistakes happen. I understand. And since no one owes me anything, I am grateful I got to hang out for a bit and meet some of the pastoral staff and your son. I would’ve been glad to have met you as well . . .

At this point, I believe what would honor Jesus is for us to sit down and talk. So, I am formally inviting you to Seattle to join me on stage for our national Resurgence Conference on November 5–6 . . .

I believe this could be a very profitable discussion—especially for young leaders who will be tuning in to learn as we model how to handle disagreement. In our day when online misquoting and Internet flame throwing hinder real progress, I truly believe we have a great opportunity to model a different way of dealing with important issues for God’s glory.

Finally, I have spoken with Dr. Wayne Grudem, who has taught for both of us. If you would prefer to sit down with him instead of me at our Resurgence Conference, he has graciously agreed and would be happy to have a pleasant and polite public conversation with you about the person and work of God the Holy Spirit for one of the main sessions.   READ THE REST

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  • Young Calvinist

    Mr Driscoll writes: “However, there were two security guards who seemed to operate in a manner inconsistent with the permission I received from the pastoral staff.”. These people were the head of security Tom Hatter and the conference director (they are visible on the video and photo that Mr Dricoll posted). As per a conversation I had with the person who made the footage Driscoll refers to, apparently there is more recorded before and after that gives more context.

    • Stuart Balmer

      And ….?
      YC, I’m not sure what your point is in this post!
      FWIW I personally think Driscolls very public visit to the ‘Strange Fire’ Conference was probably ill advised and his giving out free books even more so. However, I do think his letter and offer to Pastor MacArthur is gracious and done with the best intentions. I really hope he accepts and we can get this debate a little less confrontational.

      • Young Calvinist

        I think talking with Mr. Grudem would be better suited for pastor MacArthur. Let’s wait and see what happens.

        • John April

          to accomplish what?

          If you think your position is biblical, then stay the course.

          We forget that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are in control of OUR petulant behavior as Christians.

          He is concerned more with our Sanctification than whether we are on the right side of a position…… get it?

          • deb

            Pastor Mark isn’t trying to shame Pastor John. They are good friends. All of you ALL should repent. DO NOT TAKE OFFENSE. They are not offended. You are all gossips and tonges of death These pastors are sharpening each other and all will fair well as they grow and do their job. Go serve and pray and fast and focus on good works FOR THE SAKE OF HIS LOVE AND THE GOSPEL>>>>idiots/poop heads.

          • GLOGAN1

            “Good friends”??? You are kidding right?

        • John April

          Young Calvinist…. where are You at on His sanctification of Your life……. He is a jealous God desiring you and not your position….. get it?

      • John April

        The only one being confrontational is Driscoll. What has MacArthur said about Driscoll’s visit?

        If Driscoll was sincere, he would have sent the letter privately and not in public way.

      • John April

        what that accomplish?

        Please explain

  • james

    you spelled seattle wrong 🙂

  • Young Calvinist

    Adrian, you keep on writing “not all charismatics look like the ones he sees on TV” – but the issue is you are a tiny tiny minority in the Charismatic world. Seriously brother, you et al. are not the face of the Charismatic movement conversely, you are the fringe of it.

    • Let’s ask who are the faces of Christianity today? Who are the faces of evangelicals today? I’m thinking folk out there are going to identify some faces that make many of us cringe. Think of fundamentalist atheist, Richard Dawkins. Who is he going to throw out there?

      The names that will come up are also the names on tv? Do they all fairly represent Christianity and evangelicalism? I think not.

      Of course, tv portrays who is the majority, because that’s all we see. That’s all non-charismatics see. What about Sam Storms, Wayne Grudem, John Piper, Adrian Warnock, Andrew Wilson, Terry Virgo, Gordon Fee, Max Turner, Jack Deere, Roger Stronstad, Vinson Synan, Craig Keener, D.A. Carson and a plethora of others. Now, don’t just think of them. Think of the literal tens of thousands upon tens of thousands these folk have impacted through their pastoring, teaching and training.

      We’ve got to stop saying the level-headed continuationists are the minority. Really, we’ve got to.

  • John April

    How can you say “Driscoll vs. MacArthur”. Driscoll is providing a one sided posturing with his presence at the Strange Fire Conference and publicized letter to MacArthur. When has MacArthur entered the debate? You can say, he entered the debate by having the conference, however, there are numerous Christian conferences that do not teach the same things and there isn’t as much controversy. If Charismatics are confident in their position, why be offended if that there is a different view of what they believe scripture teaches. This disagreement has been going on for quite a long time.

    If Driscoll was wise, he should have known his presence would be controversial. Furthermore, if Driscoll wanted MacArthur to attend his conference why didn’t Driscoll send the letter privately and not publicly? This would have shown maturity and wisdom on Driscoll’s part.

    Either way, Driscoll publicly put’s MacArthur in a position: if he declines or doesn’t respond, MacArthur is at a disadvantage; if he goes it can only serve Driscoll’s stance from a publicity standpoint.

    My guess is MacArthur will not address or attend, but stay the course of his biblical view whether people agree or not.

    Driscoll will go on with his view presenting himself as the solution to the divided church?

    My view is the church will become unified when persecution comes. This is biblical and historical.

    Personally I believe the underlying problem with the American church is idolatry, materialism, and self promotion under the disguise of evangelicals.

  • Jennifer

    Adrian, Can you (or anyone) point to one example of where Mark Driscoll has publicly repented in response to admonition to John Macarthur as he claims in his open letter?

    • BrendtWayneWaters

      So, is your implication that, absent substantive evidence, you’re going to assume that Driscoll was lying?

      • Jennifer

        If he has publicly apologised after John Macarthur’s public rebuke it should be pretty easy to find. I haven’t seen it. Rather than assume it isn’t there I thought I’d ask first as I’m open to the fact that I haven’t seen everything he has said or posted.

        • BrendtWayneWaters

          Your “it should be pretty easy to find” contention doesn’t wash. I have it on good authority that Driscoll has eaten in a restaurant. This was a *public* action, but you’ll find no record of it (short of hacking into his credit card statements).

          Or a less extreme example. I’m not aware of every criticism that MacArthur has levied at Driscoll. But let’s say that one of them was in regards to the way he runs/teaches/whatevers Mars Hill (there are certainly plenty of others who criticize that, so it’s entirely feasible that MacArthur has done so, too). Driscoll’s repentance of such acts would be to the people of Mars Hill, and are none of our business. As such, I would be disappointed if such a confession was “pretty easy to find”.

          But most importantly, you miss (or deliberately avoid) my point. Driscoll has stated that it has happened. What benefit do you draw from proof, that you are seemingly requiring such?

          • Jennifer

            I may have misunderstood his contention that he “publicly repented”. Because I have seen John Macarthurs concerns regarding his Song of Solomon sermon and some of his content I thought if he publicly repented that meant that those who had seen the public rebuke would have access to the public repentance also. His Song of Solomon sermons were not only preached to his church. Mark Driscoll sermon’s are available on-line, he blogs, tweets publicly all the time. Don’t you think this sort of public ministry brings with it some degree of public accountability and responsibility? Is it really true to say that what he broadcasts worldwide- if he repents of any content – that is only relevant to the people sitting in Mars Hill?
            In this case there is no point in answering to the benefit I would draw from such proof – if we both fundamentally disagree about what “public repentance” would involve it would be meaningless.

          • BrendtWayneWaters

            Apples and oranges. You are conflating my hypothetical (an in-house example) with the SoS incident (a world-wide issue). Certainly, if Driscoll agreed with MacArthur on the latter’s criticism of the former regarding his handling of SoS, then it would probably be appropriate for the repentance to be at the same level (reach-wise) as the teaching was. But nowhere did Driscoll state that *all* of MacArthur’s criticisms were correct or that he had repented in kind.

            We have no fundamental disagreement on the meaning of “public repentance”. We *may* have a disagreement on the appropriateness of degrees of publicness; although I doubt that that is even the case. So I don’t think it is at all meaningless to ask, “[w]hat benefit do you draw from proof” that Driscoll is being truthful?

          • Jennifer

            True – he did not state that *all* of Macarthur’s criticisms were true. Macarthurs criticisms were quite public though. and I haven’t seen any response to these by Driscoll. Perhaps that means he doesn’t agree with any of them. What then has he publicly repented of in response to Macarthur’s criticism? It all becomes rather meaningless if we don’t know – so perhaps it would be better not to say in a public open letter that you have publicly repented of stuff if that was all “in house” and private and no-one knows what you are talking about.

          • BrendtWayneWaters

            You were right earlier. This conversation is meaningless. The hypotheticals you propose and the thoughts and motivations that you ascribe (with faux uncertainty) to Driscoll are far too convoluted to be addressed.

          • Jennifer

            I have “faux uncertainty” – that is not ascribing thoughts and motivations?
            My question was a plain one. Driscoll says he has “publicly repented”. I, taking public repentance to mean something public in the same manner that John Macarthur’s criticisms were public, haven’t seen that. I ask if someone else has. Your own personal answer seems to be “no – but I’m not bothered by that because “public” could mean somewhat “private”, and then your point seems to be to press me into calling Driscoll a liar. I can’t say if he’s lying. But if there is nothing for people to read or see for themselves then I believe it would be helpful not to use the words public repentance. Say “privately repented” or “repented to my own church”. No problems. Maybe he thinks he’s publicly repented – I don’t know. Maybe if it was pointed out to him that that is not clear then he would be happy to clear that up. I think if you are posting an open letter for everyone to read to a senior pastor it is important and helpful to the “conversation” that others see to be clear in your content. I don’t expect you to agree with my argument (fair enough) I just want to state clearly what it is.

          • BrendtWayneWaters

            OK, let us assume that your definition is the (only) correct one, and that no matter what the sin, Driscoll needs to repent of it in such a manner that it is “easily” accessed via the web.

            I return to my earlier question: What benefit do you derive from the absence or existence of said repentance?

          • Jennifer

            Ok. If we assume my definition is – not even the only correct one – but the most likely way most people would understand it. To back up a bit I think the whole Driscoll/Macarthur controversy is based in Macarthur’s criticisms. In order to understand where the relationship now stands it would be helpful to know which of those concerns to “take off the table”. If Mark has repented of some of the things he is criticised for, then the argument is at least starting from a different standpoint. When public Christian leaders disagree and we hear both sides, it helps to work out our own response to the issues. That would be the benefit I would derive from the existence of said repentence.
            The opposite would be true of the absence. If the ongoing debates are going to be public, it is unhelpful not to know clearly where MD has repented. It muddies the waters. It leaves uncertainty as to what he really thinks of which parts of Macarthur’s criticisms.

          • Jennifer

            ps. I think your point of “no matter what the sin” is really not the point. I really do think that he is talking of Macarthur’s public criticisms and not just something to do with his own church or something like how he leads Mars Hill.

          • BrendtWayneWaters

            Sorry, I was unclear. I was not attributing “no matter what the sin” to your view, but expanding it even further to illustrate that large chunks of my opinion are not necessary to my bottom line view.

          • Jennifer

            I meant by having “our own response to the issues” the same as your having your”own opinions” i think.

          • BrendtWayneWaters

            I guess I am at a loss as to why you feel that we need to have “our own response to the issues”. I have my own opinions on the matters of disagreement between them, and I’d bet the farm that on none of them do I solely agree with one or the other. I have to answer to God for my views. I am not beholden to either man.

          • deb

            what does the name Jennifer mean any way plz

  • Jennifer

    Sorry – that should be admonition FROM John Macarthur

  • Owen Vine

    Driscoll’s attempt at unifying what is divided seems very divisive to me. Who in humility would send an invitation so publicly with such a leading question? “See you in Seattle, Pastor John MacArthur”..! If Mr MacArthur (dropping the honorific title ‘pastor’) does not respond he now looks like the weaker, less humble party in this ridiculous public demonstration of sand pit squabbles and Mr Driscoll will feel vindicated in his own self righteousness…. Pathetic, tragic.

  • Lamar Carnes

    Mr. Driscoll would surely enjoy I am sure John MacArthur coming to the Conference and perhaps John and his staff can come and hand out his book “Strange Fire” to all of the Conference attendees without getting approval from Mark since Mark thinks that is o.k. to sabatoge a conference meeting by taking material which is counter-to the conferences positions! Mark needs to repent of this terrible deed he did at the Strange Fire Conference and he hasn’t!! Nor has he repented of his vulgar and street language flowing from his mouth. If he thinks that is cute he is terribly mistaken. NO former real dedicated servant of Christ in the past history of the Church who had any respect of the Church at large conducted their speech like Mark does!! Isn’t condoned by Scripture either! Also, his rude and crude attitude to Janice M on the radio (I heard it all) was absolutely unacceptable by a man in his position! He hasn’t sought forgiveness for offending her either so the man doesn’t believe in the Repentance he speaks about in his letter to John! Sorry guys you are worshipping the wrong person. It isn’t Mark we worship it is God and His word we worship and serve! How about trying that for a change? Stand with and obey Christ and His word for a change.

    • Jay

      come on buddy.! questioning him about citations on page 145 and yadi ydai yadah on AIR?? when we are meant to build and encourage each-other for the ONE cause she publicly pins him down like that while the world is watching??

      i can tell she doesnt like him already. i guess she is in the Macarthur camp. this was very wrong and should have been done privately. lack of wisdom here.

  • Ronald Miller

    Maybe Driscoll should repent of E2 and plagiarizing and then resend letter.

  • corbin mcnabb

    If MacArthur believes (as apparently he does) that individuals with errors constitute a problem with the whole movement, then we owe the Catholic Church an apology for leaving. Luther’s anti-semitism is well known, as is his reactions to the peasant revolt. Calvin thinking that killing Severus was an appropriate response to his non-trinitarian beliefs (don’t tell John about that, it might give some ideas). The 30 years war (taken over by the political apparatus of the day later) started as a sectarian war and the Anabaptist’s issues at Munster are a few examples. Do we reject the reformation because of the actions of the leaders (not just individual members) are unfortunate? If all charismatics were like Benny Hinn (for example) that would not mean that the gifts of the spirit had been cancelled by God in 90 AD, or thereabouts. It would mean only that all people (in 2014 at least) that believe in spiritual gifts were like Hinn, and nothing more.
    In another place MacArthur claims that 90% of charismatics believe in the prosperity doctrine. I will assume for the sake of discussion that his numbers are accurate. The prosperity doctrine says nothing about the gifts of the spirit one way or another. I have heard statements by folks that believe that the gifts ceased, that sound an awful lot like prosperity doctrine, although they deny that they hold that teaching. To be consistant he would have to reject their teachings on the gifts as well. Most (all?) of these folks are trinitarians. Does MacArthur deny the trinity because of this error. I’m sorry to vent, but this guy has gotten a lot of respect from people and both biblically and logically he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.