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Why do Evanglicals Care More About Cussing than the Treatment of Women?

The pomo darling boy of the super-reformed emerging church has recently drawn the ire of some of his fellow conservative, driscoll-thumb-400x270reformed evangelical friends. Mark Driscoll has long been known for his regular practice of cussing from the pulpit and engaging in many, many quite explicit sermons about (marital) sex. He has often said that the Song of Solomon is his favorite book of the Bible. In a lot of evangelical circles that are antagonistic to the perceived liberalism of the emerging church, Driscoll has been something of a poster-child for a while. Here we have a younger pastor who dresses cool, is “culturally relevant” and who’s still militantly conservative, insists that men must exert authority over women in every context, and who holds unswervingly to Westminster-style reformed theology.

However, I guess Driscoll’s theological and political allegiances aren’t enough to keep him in the good graces of the conservative evangelical literati. His regular sermons about sex, which often consist of straight up commands to the women of the church to perform whatever sex acts their husbands might desire have not been well-received by the likes of John MacArthur and John Piper. What’s interesting, though is what particular transgressions this outrage has been directed towards.

Most everyone is talking about the fact that the problem with Driscoll is the inappropriateness of his language. Its just not okay for you to be talking explicitly about sex and cussing from the pulpit. That’s the downbeat of the current backlash, and that’s the central issue that has framed the current debate among evangelicals that run in these circles. To his credit, MacArthur (who I generally despise, at least theologically if not personally) has put is finger on the more troubling issue here. Namely that Driscoll’s sexual explicitness is all deployed in the interest of coercing women to fulfill whatever sexual whims their husbands might have. As MacArthur rightly points out, Driscoll’s regular sermons on what the Song of Song has to say about sex always ends up pointing out “obligatory acts wives must do if this is what satisfies their husbands, regardless of the wife’s own desire or conscience.” This is the real problem, people.

Lest anyone think Driscoll is being misrepresented here, listen to just a couple quotes from one of these sex sermons: “Ladies, let me assure you of this: if you think you’re being dirty, he’s pretty happy. Jesus Christ commands you to do this.” This is misogyny sexual domination at its worst. From the pulpit we have an evangelical pastor ordering the women in his church to perform any sex act a husband might desire because, after all, Jesus commands this. In the Song of Songs. I guess.

What’s so disturbing about all this is the way this little kerfuffle is being framed as simply a problem with inappropriate language. The Victorian sensibilities about what is proper verbal etiquette among evangelicals trump the rampant exploitation, degradation, and misogyny that this allegedly Christian pastor is perpetrating on thousands of women on a weekly basis. This is a disgrace. A filthy, sickening disgrace.


  1. Brad E. wrote:

    So sick. Thank you for raising the issue, and for properly rearranging the priorities of what is really going on here. That he gets away with this stuff is truly insane.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Permalink
  2. Bobby Grow wrote:


    I agree, Driscoll’s talks on sex and the view of women he endorses is sickening!!! If you followed any of the many discussions on this at the “Shepherd’s Fellowship” then I think you would notice that more of the uproar has been about Mark’s perverse view of the objectification of women . . . but certainly they have problems with his language as well.

    (Btw, I have equal disdain for MacArthur’s theology).

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 12:18 pm | Permalink
  3. Clearly there is something very wrong when one can agree with MacArthur about the problem.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 12:23 pm | Permalink
  4. Ryan wrote:

    I love it when you blog about Mark Driscoll!

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 12:23 pm | Permalink
  5. Matt Wiebe wrote:

    Mark Driscoll seems like such an outlandish caricature of himself that I occasionally need to stop and remind myself that there are people who actually listen to his crap.

    Then I throw up.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 12:40 pm | Permalink
  6. roger flyer wrote:

    Buckle up ID readers. Here comes a string of 70 comments. Halden, I love it when you talk dirty.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 1:31 pm | Permalink
  7. Jason Oliver wrote:

    This very disheartening. Why any person would listen Driscoll’s garbage from the pulpit is beyond me. I pray that the Holy Spirit will move a congregant or an elder (or just somebody the good sense and courage)to check this guy or just leave that church for good!

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 1:36 pm | Permalink
  8. Nathan wrote:

    Don’t count on the ability of elders to change the course of things:

    “In 2007, two elders protested a plan to reorganize the church that, according to critics, consolidated power in the hands of Driscoll and his closest aides . . . 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.”

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 1:53 pm | Permalink
  9. Halden wrote:

    Yeah, don’t be fooled by anything Driscoll might say about plural church leadership. He is under the authority of absolutely no one.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 2:01 pm | Permalink
  10. kim fabricius wrote:

    “… and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, broke out even in the Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular.”

    - Tacitus, prophesying the coming of Drisollianity to Rome, the Sequel

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 2:06 pm | Permalink
  11. Sam C wrote:

    Can I suggest you guys have listen to one of his most recent sermons, “Marriage & Men”, on 1 Peter 3:7.

    I don’t agree with Driscoll on many things, gender being one of them, but I was tremendously encouraged by this sermon.

    In it, he absolutely lays into men who are anything less than Christ-like towards their wives, and (in my view) tries very hard to condemn abuse in the strongest possible way.

    It’s been fairly popular, more here:

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 2:36 pm | Permalink
  12. Daniel wrote:

    Can this issue be divorced from the issue of clergymen addicted to internet porn? One study has shown that perhaps as many as 40% of all pastors in all denominations are addicted, other studies show even higher estimates. And, it isn’t just among Christian clergy. Jewish rabbis seem to be equally addicted, even among the ultra-Orthodox in Israel, where internet porn addiction and a resulting mistreatment of women is a growing problem. I agree that this is an issue that goes way beyond dirty words (and dirty pictures) to the basic issue of respect for our fellow human beings who happen to be female.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 3:50 pm | Permalink
  13. Dan wrote:

    I imagine this would be Mark Driscoll at the end of the world:

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 9:34 pm | Permalink
  14. C.M. Reaver wrote:

    Could you please cite which sermon you heard Mark say, “Ladies, let me assure you of this: if you think you’re being dirty, he’s pretty happy. Jesus Christ commands you to do this.” I’m looking for a date and the name of the sermon. I remember listening to the “Peasant Princess” series but I do not remeber this quote. I would like to hear it for myself.

    Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 1:26 am | Permalink
  15. Bryan wrote:


    What does he do with the crazy bits in song of solomon like 5.7? Is this what happens to the wives if they don’t please their husbands, they get beat up by the watchmen (perhaps elders).

    Thanks for pointing to this rubbish, god help us!

    Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 4:41 am | Permalink
  16. Jason Oliver wrote:

    What a shame. Sounds cultic!

    Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 5:39 am | Permalink
  17. “The pomo darling boy of the super-reformed emerging church” – Halden, what a beautiful diss. You called Mr tough pants a “darling boy,” then rightly disparaged neo-Calvinism as being hyper-Reformed and you lumped him in with the emerging church to boot, a diss on Driscoll and on the emerging church. Bravo!

    Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 6:12 am | Permalink
  18. MPF wrote:

    Granted that I have yet to listen to that sermon (I intend to do that next), I am inclined to think that no mater what he says to condemn abuse in it, it doesn’t change the fact that what he’s already described elsewhere — as is quote above — IS sexual abuse.

    Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 6:25 am | Permalink
  19. MPF wrote:

    I think you’re right about the connection to porn…something has gone deeply awry with the Christian imagination when sexuality as represented in porn is what we envision for our relationships, rather than real, messy, human sexual intimacy. Based on Driscoll’s comment quoted above about being “dirty,” he’s encouraging — commanding? — women to fulfill sexual fantasy’s which have been created by the kind of distorted images of women’s sexuality portrayed in porn.

    Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 6:30 am | Permalink
  20. Nathan Smith wrote:

    According to MacArthur, it is in a sermon titled “Sex: A Study of the Good Bits of Song of Solomon.” John Piper said that Driscoll pulled the sermon down from the internet (which has created a wake of dead links on various web pages).

    Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 7:36 am | Permalink
  21. Paul wrote:

    How does this happen in a movement that is never hesitant to show its uber-Reformed credentials? Have the “New Calvinists” lost the central purpose of Reformed Christianity–to always be reforming itself, to test its doctrine and practice in the light of Scripture so as not to descend to this kind of garbage?

    Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 7:43 am | Permalink
  22. Halden wrote:

    Here’s a link to a transcript of that sermon that is still up:

    Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 8:14 am | Permalink
  23. Halden wrote:

    Anymore, I think that the perfect tense of the word “reformed” is more significant than ever. Those that claim the descriptor understand it to signify a past completed action. In short, any reform that was needed, is, in the minds of “the reformed”, over and done with. They are already reformed and any further changing of anything is apostasy.

    As such, they represent, to my mind the supreme antithesis of anything good that the Reformation was about.

    Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 8:51 am | Permalink
  24. Carolyn wrote:

    It is alarming when the focus of concern (albeit valid concern) in a discussion like the current one over Driscoll’s “inappropriate language” fails to address or even recognize the deeper issues and even dangers involved regarding women. Pornography is often discussed in terms of addiction and men with bad habits without mentioning the appalling view and degradation of women it promtes, the devastating impact on a wife, or the direct connection pornography has to the sex trafficking industry.

    Thank you for opening this fuller discussion!

    Here’s more food for thought:

    Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 8:56 am | Permalink
  25. Bobby Grow wrote:

    Well said, Halden!

    Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 10:51 am | Permalink
  26. NJL wrote:

    Though they like to think of themselves as especially devoted to Calvin or especially reformed, they are not. Certainly, their theology takes a lot of influence from Calvin and historical reformed theology, but they toss out a lot too. They certainly don’t have a traditionally reformed governance, nor do they have a traditional reformed view of the sacraments.

    Basically, the “New Calvinists” are just a parody of the reformed tradition, at least the parts they want to emphasize. And there is nothing particularly new about them, the Calvinistic Baptists have been doing this for centuries. Driscoll’s main theological influence is John Piper.

    Yeah, and they certainly don’t get the “always reforming” bit.

    Ecclessia reformata, numquam iterum reformanda

    Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Permalink
  27. Gina wrote:

    Please do not get distracted by what is happening here. When you see someone going after the pastor of a church you must note that what they are really trying to do is take down the church. Prayer is needed for this church to stay strong in their faith and for Pastor Driscoll in his teaching of God’s Word. Pastor Driscoll is not who is being taken down…satan is looking for much bigger prey…all of Mars Hill.

    Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 7:54 pm | Permalink
  28. Can we also be wary of someone (an anti-christ label may be appropriate here) parading as (or the parody of) a minister and leader in their local church? Personally, I’m not sure Mars Hill is worth the time to ‘take down.’ So far what I’ve seen, they may already be.

    Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 9:48 pm | Permalink
  29. David wrote:

    Let’s clarify briefly: this is Mars Hill Church ( in Washington.

    Not Mars Hill Bible Church ( in Grand Rapids, MI, home of Rob Bell, etc.

    Friday, June 5, 2009 at 7:29 am | Permalink
  30. Jasmine wrote:

    d. w. horstkoetter on June 3, 2009 at 12:23 pm said:
    “Clearly there is something very wrong when one can agree with MacArthur about the problem.”

    Haha! So true!!!

    Friday, June 5, 2009 at 7:42 am | Permalink
  31. roger flyer wrote:

    Pastor-centric churches like this run a course. The people who attend must work through their own spiritual passages. Hopefully, many will retain their faith and grow into critical thinkers who will continue to seek after God.

    Many will lose their faith because they have put their trust in the power of one man and their identity in the ‘reflected glory’ they receive by basking going to ‘Mars Hill’ Church.

    Others will hang on until the thing goes down. Or Mark runs for US Senate.

    Friday, June 5, 2009 at 7:42 pm | Permalink
  32. Aaron wrote:

    With all of the regular footnoting and ethical-nuance I’ve come to expect of this blog, I was disappointed not only with this post’s treatment of Driscoll from an academic perspective but more fundamentally by the clear lack of grace-giving speech (Eph. 4:29). In regards to the first observation, the one (and only) quote Halden provided towards the end of the post is misleading. The line, “Jesus Christ commands you to do so,” appears before (not after) the line, “Ladies, let me assure you of this: if you think you’re being dirty, he’s pretty happy.” In fact, according to the Google document provided, the lines are not only out of order, but are actually separated by a full four minutes. The reference to feeling “dirty” is directed not at male stimulation, but female stimulation. In context what Driscoll’s saying is simply: “It’s okay to ask your husband to do what you like. That doesn’t make you dirty.”

    Moreover, as one of the respondents pointed out, this is from a dated sermon that after being confronted about (by John Piper the story goes) was removed from all of Driscoll’s sites.

    In regard to the second observation, perhaps both Halden and the respondents felt like they were simply “striking a wolf,” but the entire tone was disheartening. Given the usual air of respect, to glory in a “beautiful diss” (Merrick’s response) just seems outside the bounds of gospel-centered speech.

    Friday, June 5, 2009 at 8:22 pm | Permalink
  33. Michael wrote:

    In my books St. John Chrysostom’s even tougher than Mark Driscoll, so I asked him what he thought. His view: each husband should “be responsible for the same providential care of … [your wife] as Christ is for the Church. And even if it become necessary for you to give your life for her, yes, and even to endure and undergo suffering of any kind, do not refuse. … What sort of satisfaction could a husband himself have, if he lives with his wife as if she were a slave, and not a woman of her own free will?” (On Marriage and Family Life, p. 47-8)

    Saturday, June 6, 2009 at 7:27 am | Permalink
  34. Aaron, my comment was made in jest. I would have thought its light-hearted character evident. Indeed, I am rather obviously embellishing Halden’s more innocent, but provocative hook-line. What is “gospel-centered speech” anyways? Does it mean, no matter the subject, we always pretend like it’s related to the gospel? For my part, I should hope your correct interest in seeing our activity be governed by the gospel is not tending toward some sort of dreary puritanism where humans are made to take themselves too seriously under the guise of taking the “gospel” seriously.

    Saturday, June 6, 2009 at 8:01 am | Permalink
  35. Cortney wrote:

    I know it might be a little late but….

    Frankly I don’t know what the big deal is. I personally love being told what to think, how to act, and what to say, whether that’s in a romantic relationship, at work, at church and/or even in life in general. I especially feel blessed when I can find a man who can even take away my burden of grappling with my own faith journey. All I need is a godly man to lead me and make me whole. I truly don’t know what’s wrong with that; it just makes my life way simpler. Honestly having a man to relieve me of all the meaningful things in life (besides being a mother) just allows me way more time to shop, gossip and do my nails.

    And let’s us not forget ladies our sole purpose in life, to pick that one perfect godly man and spend the rest of your lives learning how to best please him in any and every way we can. First one must start with summiting to his much wiser leadership. This is due to the simple fact that he’s the one truly created in the image of God and women are the after thought that seduced God’s perfect creation into the first act of sin and brought down all of humanity (oh sorry…I mean we were created to be man’s helper, my bad). If you’re wondering to yourself, how do I know when I’ve found such a man? Then look no further, it’s obvious that we’ve been blessed to have a perfect example like Mar’s Hill cutting edge pastor. He looks cool, seems to have a sense of humor and of course followed by thousands. What could be hotter? If you haven’t caught on yet….what your man wants is a woman who anticipates all his needs, raises your beautiful little offspring, volunteers in church and then brings out the leather and handcuffs once you’ve gotten the kidos to bed. I know I’m not married and don’t have kids but I suggest while little Billy and Suzie are napping, you take that time to wax and shop for new lingerie online…it’s super easy. The key is you just need to be good at time management and if you’re not a natural at I’m sure your man can guild you in learning such complicated skill.

    ps. Halden I have read a few of your blogs since I’m checking into attending CoTSK and have really appreciated your words.

    Saturday, June 6, 2009 at 6:46 pm | Permalink
  36. roger flyer wrote:


    super ironic response…

    or there are doubtless 300 young single men waiting for you at Mars Hill (or 10,000 on Craig’s List or whatever dating service you should happen to join) if you are willing to ‘please’ him as you insinuate.

    Sunday, June 7, 2009 at 4:08 pm | Permalink
  37. Halden wrote:

    I think Cortney was making a (rather well-articulated) joke, Roger.

    Sunday, June 7, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Permalink
  38. roger flyer wrote:

    Uhhhnnnhhh…you think so?

    Sunday, June 7, 2009 at 6:45 pm | Permalink
  39. roger flyer wrote:

    Mars Hills girls beg to differ.

    Sunday, June 7, 2009 at 6:45 pm | Permalink
  40. roger flyer wrote:

    Damn. This is why my hyphenated name doesn’t connect with people!

    Sunday, June 7, 2009 at 6:46 pm | Permalink
  41. Cortney wrote:

    Yes I very much was…my apologies for the confusion. Sadly enough I attended Mar’s Hill a few times when I was going to community college. Uhhh NO THANKS. If that was the kind of man I was looking for I would have been married with three little children just out of high school. Instead have found the topic so incredibly sicking that I almost through my amazing, precious, loving, savor/faith out with the masochistic bath water.

    The ironic feminist

    Sunday, June 7, 2009 at 8:19 pm | Permalink
  42. Cortney wrote:

    oops not sure how that posted three time, sorry.

    Sunday, June 7, 2009 at 8:20 pm | Permalink
  43. Cortney wrote:

    Okay now it’s really funny because what a really meant to say was misogynistic bath water…woops. I guess I can see how both could work. I’m a huge dork and this wifi isn’t really working.

    Sunday, June 7, 2009 at 8:40 pm | Permalink
  44. roger flyer wrote:

    Cortney and Halden-

    Come on you guys! Was my sarcasm not as dripping as Cortney’s? For the record–

    ‘…there are doubtless 300 young single men waiting for you at Mars Hill (or 10,000 on Craig’s List or whatever dating service you should happen to join) if you are willing to ‘please’ him as you insinuate…”

    This is not a GOOD thing!

    Monday, June 8, 2009 at 5:51 am | Permalink
  45. Halden wrote:

    I think the big words like “ironic” and “insinuate” confused my block head.

    Monday, June 8, 2009 at 9:16 am | Permalink
  46. roger flyer wrote:

    For the record 2-
    Maybe ironic was a poor word choice. Sarcastic would be better.
    I’m grateful that you kept your faith.

    For the record, hyper-pastor leaders like Driscoll end up doing a lot of damage to people’s souls. My advice: If you are in a church where the ‘pastor’ speaker thinks they know as much as he does, RUN away very fast.

    Monday, June 8, 2009 at 10:52 am | Permalink
  47. cortney wrote:

    Thanks Roger, me too.
    From my experience it seems fairly easy to avoid pastors/churches with such bold and obvious misogynistic views and/or that seem to “know” so much. However a bit trickier to do so when it comes with the deep and historical foundation that the “church” (mainly evangelical) has been built upon. These views are taught in a less obvious manner, soaked in verbiage that clouds the message that men and women aren’t equally and a lot of time even goes unsaid and even assumed. It’s such establishments as these that are as, if not more hurtful then those like Mar’s Hill. I have found it extremely encouraging to read Halden’s blogs as well as the comments that follow. I’ve spent several years holding on to the hope that there’re men (I’ve found plenty of women)out there that are both confessed believers and see these absurdities. Believe it or not you’re few and far between or maybe I’ve just distanced myself excessively far from the “confessed believer” side of the male population. Either way it’s odd that even with my strong feminist views that the deep indoctrinate of male approval and guidance still has a hold on me, hence the desire for validation from the male population in my view. Ugh.

    Also since we’re all going on record here, although my original comment was very sarcastic…I do think that marriage, sex, and children are not to be taken lightly. They’re a beautiful, challenging, humbling and fun part of life that continues to grow us as individuals and a community. I as a feminist am grateful to the women who’ve gone before me, paving the path of many choices and in that would be honored to be a stay-at-home mother. I just don’t want to be told that is my only worth and duty. OH!! And I did watch an interview with Driscoll and his wife, they’re both truly sexist all the way around…I guess we can’t say they’re inconsistent. It was on stay-at-home fathers…and it made my stomach turn.

    Monday, June 8, 2009 at 3:27 pm | Permalink
  48. Halden wrote:

    That interview is one of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen. The way he sat next to her on the couch, constantly facing her, neurotically grasping her led the whole time. Frightening.

    Monday, June 8, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Permalink
  49. roger flyer wrote:


    You are not ‘well differentiated’ about this, agreed?


    You are a thoughtful and articulate soul who I pray will not give up on the male ‘christian’ populace. But I know your concern.

    I want to affirm that you have seen through the gambit (no small feat) and your eyes are wide open.
    Now listen to the lessons you’ve learned. I am a fan!

    Be wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove.

    Monday, June 8, 2009 at 4:42 pm | Permalink
  50. roger flyer wrote:

    One more thing (and I’m obnoxiously aware of these things) I notice that you keep saying Mar’s Hill…? I don’t know if it’s a grammatical error or a prophetic statement…Mars Hill would be the name, I think>

    Mar’s Hill would be the reality. ‘Mar’ring the humility of the gospel.

    Monday, June 8, 2009 at 4:46 pm | Permalink
  51. Ben Currin wrote:

    Interesting stuff as usual, Halden. I agree with everyone here that Driscoll’s way out of line here. What more is there to say?

    Tuesday, June 9, 2009 at 7:17 pm | Permalink
  52. R. Marhefka wrote:

    “Here’s a link to a transcript of that sermon…”

    Thanks for the link.
    It still works.
    Talk about perverting the text.

    Saturday, July 4, 2009 at 11:42 am | Permalink

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