A brief interview published last week between Mark Driscoll and The Gospel Coalition’s (TGC) associate editor, Matt Smethurst, appeared to go unnoticed by many. That is, until The Christian Post (CP) mentioned it today in an article that primarily seems to discuss a 2007 sermon of Driscoll’s wherein he references the smiling prosperity preacher. While the CP article reminds of some interesting points, it seems more prudent for Christians to examine what was said in this recent TGC interview.
Driscoll was asked by Smethurst,
You observe that “appreciated people” exchange grumbling for praying, competing for celebrating, bitterness for thankfulness, performing for serving, and boasting for encouraging. What’s an “appreciated person”? Isn’t that what Joel Osteen wants me to be? Source
The pertinent portion of Driscoll’s response does not answer this question, but does raise some new ones:
I am aware of the theological differences that exist between our tribe and Pastor Joel. I also know my Reformed brothers like to treat Pastor Joel like a piñata, but there are worse things than being happy and encouraging at a time when the most common prescription medications are antidepressants. A few guys in our tribe could learn to talk about something other than painful, arduous suffering once and a while—if nothing else than for the sake of variety. Our identity is not in our joy, and our identity is not in our suffering. Our identity is in Christ, whether we have joy or are suffering. Source
This response warrants closer examination. For ease, it may help to work backwards through Driscoll’s comments:
Our identity is not in our joy, and our identity is not in our suffering. Our identity is in Christ, whether we have joy or are suffering.
What Christian would not agree with this statement? Indeed, the identity of the redeemed lies in Christ, not in one’s situation. The Christian has been crucified with Christ, and now walks in newness of life through Him (Gal. 2:20).
A few guys in our tribe could learn to talk about something other than painful, arduous suffering once and a while—if nothing else than for the sake of variety.
Mark Driscoll’s “tribe” presumably is the young, restless and reformed (YRR) crowd. Nevertheless, even if one does not consider himself to be a part of the YRR, this again is a statement that most Christians would affirm. Yes, the Christian life should be preached truthfully. To live for Christ is to bear one’s cross and surrender all before Christ in total submission and obedience to Him (Matt. 10:38, 16:24–25; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23–24). Yet, for the Christian, this is done with great joy and gladness. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is a marvelous teaching on the believer’s joy in the midst of trials (Phil. 1:18–21, 3:1, 4:4).
I am aware of the theological differences that exist between our tribe and Pastor Joel. I also know my Reformed brothers like to treat Pastor Joel like a piñata, but there are worse things than being happy and encouraging at a time when the most common prescription medications are antidepressants.
One would hope that there would be a great many theological differences between a “tribe” that claims to believe Reformed theology and Joel Osteen, whose sermons usually consist of unamusing anecdotes and the twisting of partial verses of Scripture.
Mark Driscoll most certainly is right when he says that “there are worse things than being happy and encouraging.” Yes, Pastor Mark, there are far worse things than going through life with a constant, glowing smile on one’s face. One particular “worse thing” that comes to mind in this context is the preaching of a false and damning gospel. Joel Osteen has yet to be heard to boldly, clearly and accurately proclaim the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Happy and encouraging” is nice, but it cannot save a soul.
Said Tim Challies in his article, “Smilingly Leading You to Hell,”
Christians can be nice, but so too can unbelievers. The Holy Spirit may help us be nice, but niceness is not necessarily proof that we are living in the Spirit and by the Spirit. Some of the most evil people are also the nicest people….
Is there anyone nicer than Joel Osteen? Yet is there anyone whose message has less of the gospel and more anti-biblical nonsense? You can watch him in this video, sitting with Oprah, receiving accolades, nicely, smilingly leading an eager crowd farther and farther from the cross. He is nice, but he, too, will nice you straight to the gates of hell, flashing that brilliant smile all the while. Source
To be sure, Mark Driscoll has not exactly extended a blanket endorsement of Joel Osteen, yet his words offer just enough latitude to lead some spiritually immature members of his “tribe” down a dangerous road. This brings to mind another “worse thing,” and that is the failure of a shepherd to protect the flock.
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Acts 20:28–30